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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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BGO Records BGOCD1199





  1. Chameleon

  2. Gospel John

  3. The Way We Were

  4. Jet

  5. La Fiesta

  6. I Can't Get Started

  7. Living For The City

  8. Superbone Meets The Bad Man

    Maynard Ferguson - Leader, trumpet, baritone horn, Superbone, vocal

    Stan Mark, Dennis Noday, Lynn Nicholson, Bob Summers - Trumpet, flugelhorn, Latin American instruments

    Randy Purcell, Jerry Johnson - Trombones

    Andy Macintosh - Alto sax, flute, soprano sax, cowbell

    Brian Smith - Tenor sax, flute, tambourine

    Bruce Johnstone - Baritone sax, flute, vibraslap

    Rick Petrone - Bass, bass guitar

    Alan Zavod - Piano, electric piano

    Dan D'Imperio - Drums


  1. Gonna Fly Now (Theme From “Rocky”)

  2. Mister Mellow

  3. Theme From Star Trek

  4. Conquistador

  5. Soar Like An Eagle

  6. The Fly

    The Maynard Ferguson Band:

    Maynard Ferguson - Leader, trumpet

    Mike Migliore - Alto sax, soprano sax

    Mark Colby - Tenor sax, soprano sax

    Bobby Militello - Baritone sax, flute

    Scan Mark, Dennis Noday, Giuseppe 'Loon' P. Mosello, Ron Tooley - Trumpets

    Randy Purcell, Roger Homefield - Trombones

    Peter Erskine - Drums

    Gordon Johnson - Bass

    Biff Hannon - Keyboards

    Tony Romano - Sound

    Additional Players:

    George Benson, Jeff Layton, Eric Gale, Lance Quinn - Guitars

    Bob James, Kenny Ascher - Keyboards

    Gary King, Will Lee - Bass

    Harvey Mason, Allan Schwartzberg - Drums

    Ralph MacDonald - Percussion

    Phil Kraus - Parade drum

    George Young - Alto saxophones

    Joe Farrell - Tenor saxophones

    Jon Faddis, Marvin Stamm, Randy Brecker, Alan Rubin, Bernie Glow, Marky Markowitz, Jim Bossy - Trumpets

    Wayne Andre, Paul Faulise, Dave Taylor, Julian Priester - Trombones

    Brooks Tillotson, Donald Corrado - French horn

    Patti Austin, Lani Groves, Gwen Guthrie, Linda November, Ellen Bernfeld, Vivian Cherry, Richard Berg, Martin Nelson - Vocals

    Alfred Brown, Harry Cykman, Max Ellen, Paul Gershman, Harold Kohon, Charles Librov, Harry Lookofsky, Charles McCracken, Marvin Morgenstern, David Nadien, Eugene Noye, Max Pollikoff, Matthew Raimondi, Albert Scheonmaker, Alan Shulman, Richard Sortomme, Emanuel Vardi - Strings

    CD2 Hot

  1. Rocky II Disco

  2. Gabriel

  3. Om Sai Ram

  4. Theme From Star Trek

  5. Dayride

  6. Naima

  7. Topa-Topa Woman

    Maynard Ferguson - Trumpet, flugelhorn

    Mike Migliore - Alto sax

    Eric Traub - Tenor sax

    Ed Maina - Baritone sax

    Stan Mark, Joe Mosello, Dan Barber, Alan Johnson, Ron Tooley - Trumpets

    Nick Lane, Phil Grey - Trombones

    Tom Rizzo - Guitar

    Jeff Pitson - Keyboards, Moog synthesizers

    Lou Cada - Bass

    Bob Economou - Drums

    Joe Mosello - Percussion

The Canadian trumpeter and bandleader Maynard Ferguson was active on the big band scene in the USA from about 1948 onwards, but his big breakthrough came with the Stan Kenton Band from 1950 to 1953. He established himself there as a technically superb, high voltage performer with the upper register of his instrument his speciality. After a spell with Paramount studio orchestras in Hollywood, Ferguson formed the first of the big bands which he was to lead during his career. Although for comparatively short periods he fronted a sextet and a septet respectively, there seems little doubt as to where his heart lay, namely with larger ensembles of between 13 and 18 musicians. Never afraid to dip his toe into the waters of popular music (nor to dress in the manner deemed appropriate in the disco era!) he had a substantial hit with

Gonna Fly Now (Theme From “Rocky”). Released as a single by Columbia, this Jay Chattaway arrangement of one of the more memorable film themes reached 28 th in the US singles chart. It can be heard on the Conquistador album which is part of the package under review here. Another aspect of Ferguson's persona that will be remembered, apart from his versatility on a range of brass instruments, is his interest in devising new forms of instrumentation. He both designed and played the “Superbone” for instance, a combination valve and slide tenor trombone.

Of the three albums which make up this two CD release, Chameleon dates from 1974, Conquistador from 1977 and Hot from 1979. If you want to hear the band at its best, then Chameleon is, for me, far and away the most impressive collection. Starting with the Herbie Hancock tune of that name which is an appetising piece of jazz-funk, there is scarcely a dull moment on the entire album. Gospel John, which follows the opening track, has some sensational high notes from Ferguson and nifty interplay between baritone sax Bruce Johnstone and alto sax player Andy Macintosh. Chick Corea's La Fiesta proves to be a worthy vehicle for the band, propelled along by Dan D'Imperio on drums. Alan Zavod on keyboards, bassist Rick Petrone and arranger/trombonist Jerry Johnson are prominent, too, in a lively rendition of what is now a modern Latin jazz classic. Needless to say, there's also scope for a roof raising cadenza from Ferguson. There's a tremendous version of Stevie Wonder's Living For The City, where lead trumpeter Lynn Nicholson shows that exploring the stratosphere is a game that two can play. Those are the highlights of this first album but there are also two beautifully played ballads, the second of which, I Can't Get Started, not only gives us an example of Ferguson's mellow side but shows that he's not half bad as a singer either. The final track, Superbone Meets The Bad Man, features Ferguson on the aforementioned hybrid instrument alongside Bruce Johnstone on baritone sax. They both excel on a bop-flavoured piece.

Chameleon then, is a consistently good and accessible album. I wish I could be as positive about those remaining. I know that Conquistador was rated at the time, possibly because of the inclusion of the theme from “Rocky”. That apart, the tracks on it have not aged well. There is one exception. Mister Mellow has George Benson guesting on typically smooth and melodic guitar. Maynard Ferguson on flugelhorn, meanwhile, lives up to the promise of the title. He shows he could tone down the extravagant flourishes when he wanted. The resulting sound is remarkably like that of Chris Botti! As for the Hot tracks, for the most part, I judge these to be substandard, again with exceptions which prompt the question as to why they can't all be as good as this. Stanley Clarke's Dayride is a tightly scored triumph while Naima, a moving ballad from the pen of John Coltrane, is beautifully played by Ferguson on flugelhorn. Otherwise, the usual suspects for this period present themselves - an abortive attempt to resurrect the success of the first Rocky record, this time á la disco and a shot at incorporating sacred Indian music in Om Sai Ram. The Theme From Star Trek, already heard on Conquistador, represents another strand in Ferguson's music - exposure to popular culture.

There's sufficient of merit in this digitally re-mastered, three album, compilation to make it worthwhile. In addition it has distinct curiosity value as a musical commentary on one face of jazz in the seventies. There's a nicely produced and informative booklet to keep the discs company, complete with shots of Maynard's rather outlandish gear at the time. Some of the music stands up well, the rest, as they say, is history!

James Poore

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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