Maynard Ferguson, RIP
August 24, 2006 11:00 PM   Subscribe

Here's a dot . an octave and a half above high C for the legendary jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, who has passed away at 78. Building on the experimental wanderings of Miles Davis, Ferguson fused jazz and rock in creating what is quite probably the signature big band sound of the psychadelic and disco eras. (See, e.g., "Rocky" (.wav).) He was well-known for astounding technical proficiency and his tight-lipped embochure created one of the largest ranges of any trumpeter. (Here's Ferguson playing and conducting "Round Midnight" in a very early clip [youtube]). But legions of former high school trumpet geeks full disclosure: I am one will remember him best for his commitment to signing promising young players for his tours and his reaching out, with tireless touring at tiny venues, to high school and college bandies and drum corps-types who at one time or another came across his repertoire.
posted by Saucy Intruder (31 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
One of the greatest ever -- played notes so high the audiences' lips would bleed! Used to go see him at Blues Alley frequently... a few of us even visited with him on his tour bus for about half an hour after one show. Last time I saw him was in 1990, and he was lookin' suddenly and noticeably "old" (compared to previous shows) then, so I'm actually surprised he lasted this long.
posted by CodeBaloo at 11:07 PM on August 24, 2006

Just saw him a couple of years ago, and he was still a delight. RIP Maynard. By the way, his album Screamin' Blues is a gem.
posted by QuietDesperation at 11:10 PM on August 24, 2006

Someone once asked me what the difference was between American high school/college bands and English colliery bands. I said that no colliery band would ever play Maynard Ferguson's arrangement of "Macarthur Park," much less do it while marching in formation on a football field.

Every horn-playing band geek in America is in mourning tonight. (Note: I was not a band geek, just a regular geek.)
posted by dw at 11:15 PM on August 24, 2006

OK, wait... how did get that dot up there, and still make it on the same line of text? Now my brain hurts.
posted by Clamwacker at 11:37 PM on August 24, 2006

Here's a dot for Maynard:

So high above middle C no one can see or hear it. Even dogs can't hear it. It's already made it past that little dwarf Pluto, and is now heading straight for trumpet player heaven, where Miles rules over all.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:53 PM on August 24, 2006

Actually, Miles corules, along with Louis Armstrong.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:57 PM on August 24, 2006

Ferguson seems to have fallen into general disregard as a player (though still, of course, revered as a technician on the instrument and an all-time high-note acrobat), but I think it's unfair.

Sure he usually worked mostly in pretty trodden areas of the music, but he did some underrated arrangements, and if you do the listening work, you'll hear some fine development and ideas in his solos.

Oh, yeah, and he could play soooo fucking high. (If only he'd also gone as low as Bill Dixon, hehe).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:01 AM on August 25, 2006

Another Master Passes .
posted by Jerub at 12:09 AM on August 25, 2006

Her name is Dot and she is high:

posted by nlindstrom at 12:51 AM on August 25, 2006

Our paths crossed several times. It was a pleasure sharing the stage with him.


(that was his embouchure)
posted by sourwookie at 1:05 AM on August 25, 2006

posted by Duncan at 1:44 AM on August 25, 2006

One last trip to Birdland
posted by Duncan at 2:05 AM on August 25, 2006

Is it just me or are the top two lines of text on this post all garbled together?

Same here. Jerub's comment is mashed into the "posted by..." line too.
posted by Devils Slide at 2:13 AM on August 25, 2006

I saw him live back in the seventies at NCSU.

I managed to snag the paper cup he was sipping out of during the performance, which to my surprise reeked of alcohol. Maybe that explained the high notes!
posted by konolia at 5:03 AM on August 25, 2006

Saw him three times over the years. First time was around 1975. (I'm also a former trumpet geek.)

posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:23 AM on August 25, 2006


Also worth noting that that is an excellent example of how to do an obit FPP.
posted by TedW at 5:52 AM on August 25, 2006

I saw Maynard Ferguson 30 years ago at a high school in a small town in Western Washington state. I was astounded at what he could do with a horn. It was a performance I never forgot!
posted by barrista at 6:10 AM on August 25, 2006

Gotta Fly Now, Maynard

posted by longbaugh at 6:11 AM on August 25, 2006

When he came to my college for a concert in about 1972 I heard someone backstage, early, warming up. I thought it was a violinist.
posted by kozad at 6:57 AM on August 25, 2006

Did Maynard Ferguson's wife convince Timothy Leary to try LSD for the first time?

Long before psychedelia was a gleam in the Beatles' kaleidoscope eyes, Maynard Ferguson may have been the first musician to take LSD.

posted by jonp72 at 7:02 AM on August 25, 2006

As an amateur trumpet player who was usually the only one in my band able to play anywhere near Maynard's register, I always ended up playing his parts. I don't think I ever had any more fun in jazz than when I was doing one of his arrangements.
posted by infidelpants at 7:10 AM on August 25, 2006

He was a good player who did some good arrangements. RIP, mf.
posted by papakwanz at 8:03 AM on August 25, 2006

Gabriel, move over to second trumpet.
posted by Relay at 8:14 AM on August 25, 2006


I always like seeing his name on older jazz recordings. Allmusic has a short bio that captures the accomplishments and the conflicted feelings a lot of jazzheads have about Maynard's post-1974 stuff. And that's great about the LSD.
posted by mediareport at 8:20 AM on August 25, 2006

When I was in high school, Maynard was my favorite musician. I listened to his albums all the time. I know he did some "respectable" jazz (which I also enjoy), but his exuberant pop-sounding stuff was the soundtrack of my youth and when I pull out his arrangements of "Birdland," "La Fiesta," "Chameleon," "Gonna Fly Now," "Country Road," "Shaft," "Livin' for the City," "Sesame Street," "Got the Spirit" "Coconut Champagne," "Jet," "The Foxhunt," "MF Carnival," "Stella by Starlight," "Airegin," I crank those puppies up and rock out like it was Van Halen or Aerosmith.

Thanks for all the fun music, Maynard.

posted by straight at 8:25 AM on August 25, 2006

That Allmusic page is hilarious. I love the "moods" list for Maynard:

* Brash
* Boisterous
* Confident
* Energetic
* Rousing
* Playful
* Intense
* Amiable/ Good-Natured
* Freewheeling
* Passionate
* Exuberant
* Indulgent
* Party/ Celebratory
* Fun
* Sophisticated
* Brassy
* Slick
* Reverent
* Sensual
* Earthy
* Carefree
posted by straight at 8:29 AM on August 25, 2006

He visited our high school symphonic band (I played trombone); got to chat with him for a few minutes; then we saw him in concert at UConn.

He finished with "Hey Jude", and at each iteration of the "nanana naaaa", he played another octave higher.

It had me thinking of grains of rice on chessboards.

(<sup> tag was made for this gentleman)
posted by kurumi at 8:33 AM on August 25, 2006

Gabriel, move over to second trumpet. Third. Dizzy's there already, remember.
posted by QuietDesperation at 8:50 AM on August 25, 2006

Gabriel, move over to second trumpet. Third. Dizzy's there already, remember.
posted by QuietDesperation at 10:50 AM CST on August 25 [+] [!]

Fourth at highest, first chair will always be Brownie.
posted by ozomatli at 11:16 AM on August 25, 2006

Oh man. I'm another former trumpet geek whose happiest pre-age-of-majority moment was watching Maynard Ferguson walking through an auditorium playing "Gonna Fly Now". That man could blow.

posted by felix betachat at 6:06 PM on August 25, 2006

posted by deemer at 6:47 PM on August 25, 2006

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