Maynard Ferguson

From Academic Kids

Maynard Ferguson (born May 4, 1928 in Montreal, Quebec) is a jazz trumpet player.

Ferguson came to prominence playing in Stan Kenton's orchestra at age 16, before forming his own band in 1957. He is noted for being able to play accurately in a remarkably high range.

After leaving the Stan Kenton Orchestra, Ferguson began playing outside North America, with extended periods in England and India, before returning to the U.S. in 1974. His recording of "Gonna Fly Now", the theme from the movie Rocky won him a Grammy nomination in 1978. Since, Ferguson has started many of his own big bands, including his fusion band High Voltage and his latest big band Big Bop Nouveau.

Maynard Ferguson is one of the handful of musician/bandleaders to survive the end of the big band era and Rock and Roll. While never a household name, and with little popular success, excluding "Gonna Fly Now", he demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt musically. His albums show a progression from big band swing, bepob, cool jazz, latin, jazz/rock, fusion with classical and operatic influences. He enjoyed a remarkable resurgence in the 1970's when he embraced jazz/rock. Though this phase is often derided by jazz purists, it attracted a new generation of young school musicians to jazz.

The economic unviability of large bands in the late 1960's served as an impetus for Ferguson to relocate to Europe and Asia, particularly England and India. Ferguson gained some minor notoriety when in Amsterdam in 1969(?) he joined with a group of musicians and artists [group name?] advocating the use of drugs for mind expanding purposes. This appears to have been a brief dalliance, and in keeping with the mood of the times.

Known for his ability to play in the upper ranges of the trumpet, fans thrill to hear him reach a "double-high C". Another signature which is rarely duplicated by other musicians is a trill of a four note range, vice the typical, and more stable, 3 note range. Ferguson has been accused of not being experimental in music styles, but has been successful adapting and improvising on other's compositions. He did develop two unique instruments- a trumpet with both traditional valves (played with the left hand rather than the right) and trombone style slide called the 'Firebird' as well as a trombone with both a slide & valves called 'Superbone'. The India experience deeply touched him, and he regularly incorporated Indian instruments and influences in albums and concerts, often ending with the ringing of a temple bell.

After Maynard Ferguson's return to the U.S. in the 1970's he was able to sustain the big band experience on tour by recruiting talented college musicians. From at least the late 1990's continuing on through at least 2004, Ferguson has supported music in secondary schools, often playing in high school auditoriums and conducting master classes. Though touring with a lean band of 10 - 12 musicians, Maynard is a crowd pleaser with dedicated fans. He has been known to keep the band riffing on the final tune while he takes the time to shake the hand of every cheering fan in the Ferguson


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