During the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, trumpeter
Maynard Ferguson (1928-2006) cut his teeth playing in the
big bands of Charlie Barnet (1913-1991) and
Stan Kenton (1911-1979). He later also enjoyed a long career
as a bandleader, and was famous for his command of the
trumpet’s highest register, inspiring younger players with
his technical proficiency.
A while back, I heard “Maynard Ferguson: Live from
San Francisco,” a recording of a 1983 concert he gave at the
Great American Music Hall. This set of crowd pleasing
arrangements were by members of Ferguson’s band of
12 players, which was small by “big band” standards.
In addition to his work on baritone saxophone and
occasional vocals, Denis DiBlasio arranged four of the
seven tracks on this CD, and composed
“Coconut Champagne.” This infectious Latin Jazz piece was
probably my favorite on the disc. Other songs included
DiBlasio’s arrangement of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life,”
and the 13-minute “BeBop Buffet,” a tribute to BeBop
legends, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk.
As I mentioned earlier, this was music to please the masses,
and I’m sure that it did just that. Ferguson’s signature
stratospheric playing could be heard throughout the set.
Occasionally, he sang as well, and those results were
less memorable. Nevertheless, the players were obviously
quite proficient on their respective instruments, and the
aforementioned Denis DiBlasio delivered the most
virtuosic scat singing that I’ve ever heard from a vocalist!
This happy, 46-minute concert was well recorded, although
not particularly challenging, and was the first
Maynard Ferguson recording I’ve heard. I look forward
to hearing more.