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Maynard Ferguson is a jazz band leader, but not just an ordinary band leader, he is a great leader. I had the pleasure of hearing his band play live at Dowe's on 9th, in Pittsburgh. They rule. There is no other way to say that. The band was so awesome, I can't do them justice.

First of all, Maynard plays the trumpet insanely high. I play the trumpet myself, and I can't believe how high he can play. It is utterly amazing. The notes are over an octave above anything I would dream of playing. He plays most of the trumpet solos, and the band is obviously playing behind. Man can they play.

The band is called Big Bop Nouveau. Everyone of them had a sweet improv solo. The trumpets were wailing, the bassist was the stereotypical cool cat of the night club scene, and the drummer looked like he was having a blast playing. The saxes were tight, and the trombone was grooving along with the piano. The entire band left the stage for a five minute long drum solo, and later left for a five minute long bass solo. When the band would play together, they would really blow the roof off. They could play with such enthusiasm, style, and skill that I loved every minute of the concert.

The music that the band plays lies more along the lines of bop or fusion, but they also play jazz standards that are pumped-up to suit their style. All in all, Maynard Ferguson is pretty much my favorite band leader. Big Bop Nouveau is probably my favorite band. The music they play is definitely my favorite type of music.

His range on the trumpet has been called "stratospheric". His energy is boundless. The man is seventy-three years old, for crying out loud, and he still has a range on his trumpet that makes dogs yelp.

Born in Montreal on May 4, 1928, Maynard took up violin and piano when he was four years old. By the time he was thirteen, he was an accomplished musician who had played live on the CBC. When he was sixteen, he caught the eye of many a bandleader touring through the Montreal area by playing lead trumpet for his band, which did the opening act for big band concerts.

In 1949 he left his band to travel to America to fulfill his dream of playing with Stan Kenton's band. Unfortunately, Kenton was taking that year off to create a new band with a new sound. When Kenton drew up the roster for his new band, though, Maynard was on it. In the meantime, Maynard kept himself busy playing with Boyd Rayburn, Jimmy Dorsey, and Charlie Barnett's bands.

In the three years he played with Stan Kenton's band, the "Innovations In Modern Music Orchestra", Ferguson gained lasting fame as the young kid with the range -- he demonstrated that it was possible to play the trumpet musically in the range that most trumpeters simply squeaked at. Instead of using the upper register to show off, his effortless command of a triple-high G allowed him to concentrate on the delivery and intonation of such high notes. This, of course, made him the ideal lead trumpet player for a big band. It also made him the idol of every aspiring lead player for decades to come.

After his stint with Kenton, Maynard left to work as a studio musician for some time; you may have heard him playing on the soundtrack to Paramount's "The Ten Commandments", the one with Charlton Heston as Moses. He also formed an all-star band, the "Birdland Dream Band", with whom he recorded two self-titled albums. From 1967 until 1974 he lived and toured in Europe. During this time he recorded one of his most famous tracks, MacArthur Park.

Upon his return to America in 1974 he became something of a celebrity for his arrangement of the theme from Rocky, "Gonna Fly Now". His album "Conquistador" was nominated for a Grammy in 1978. The fame he garnered for this enabled him to form a band in the 80's comprised excusively of up-and-coming jazz stars; the Big Bop Nouveau. Influenced by his time with Stan Kenton's band, Maynard strived to provide a launchpad for the careers of young musicians; Big Bop Nouveau boasts a list of alumni as long as it is impressive. Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, and Chick Corea are just three of the more famous musicians who played with BBN.

Ferguson still tours six months a year and has recently spent much of his time studying Indian and other Eastern music.


Information taken in part from http://www.gr8music.com/Ferguson,_Maynard/ and from various album covers.

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