Had I thought things through a little more when I was putting together the schedule of albums I wanted to write about this year, I probably would not have scheduled two trumpet players back to back.
Last week I wrote about Roy Hargrove, one of the so-called “young lions” of jazz. This week I’m going to talk about one of the “old lions,” if you will, the late Maynard Ferguson.
This will be the second time I’ve written about an album of Ferguson’s, the first being his 1990 release, “Big Bop Nouveau,” which appeared here last July in Jazz For A Saturday Night #112.
As always when writing about an artist who has previously graced this blog, I am not going to waste space here repeating all the biographical information that you can just as easily read in the earlier review. There is also a fairly extensive writeup about Ferguson’s life and career on Wikipedia, and Brass Musician, an online magazine “for brass players, by brass players,” has impressive bio also.
We’ll leave it at he was one of the few performers lucky enough to have a career that spanned seven decades, and who was still stepping out on a stage every day right up until his death in August 2006.
The album I’m going to focus on this time was recorded in 1993, three years after “Big Bop Nouveau.” Some of the personnel are the same as on the previous album, and you’ll find the holdovers marked with a * in the list below.
Maynard Ferguson, trumpet & flugelhorn
Joe Barati, trombone
Nathan Berge, bass & guitar
Roger Ingram, trumpet *
Christian Jacobs, piano & keyboard
Craig Johnson, trumpet
Glen Kostur, bari sax *
Chip McNeil soprano & tenor sax
Keith Oshiro, trombone
Brian Thompson, trumpet
Matt Wallace, alto & tenor sax *
Walter White, muted trumpet
Dave Pietro, alto sax
Ed Sargent, percussion
Chris Brown, drums
“Live From London” was recorded at the venerable Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, and gets off to a vigorous start with Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night In Tunisia.” This is a monster opening, running over fourteen and a half minutes. During that time it runs the gamut from comparatively quiet introspection to dynamic explosions of energy. Such is the power of this one that I plugged in my Sennheiser headphones and restarted the track with the volume cranked UP. If you lean back with your eyes closed, it is quite easy to literally find yourself lost in the music.
The embedding feature on YouTube has been disabled for this track, so I guess I won’t be offering it for you to preview.
Duke Ellington’s “In A Mellow Tone” follows. It’s hard to think of a song that runs almost nine minutes as being “short,” but compared “Tunisia” it is. Like “Tunisia,” this one is all over the board tempo-wise: slow like a ballad one minute, lightning fast the next. This is, of course, a wonderful song, and Ferguson and the boys do an outstanding job with it.
If Sonny Rollins goes down in history being remembered for only one song, “St. Thomas” almost certainly will be it. Ferguson’s gang attacks the Rollins classic head on with an energy level that will leave you almost exhausted from listening to it.
Once again someone, a short-sited record label exec perhaps, has had embedding turned off for this song on YouTube, so I guess we’ll just move on to the next one. And not bother trying to share any of the other tracks on this album.
“Fox Hunt” from the pen of Michael Abene follows “St. Thomas.” I have not run across this song before, but I have to tell you, it really cooks! Ferguson’s staccato horn propels this along at a breakneck speed, with bassist Berg seemingly in danger of tearing the callouses from his fingers, such is the pace. For an unknown, this song thrilled me, and the snipped of audience reaction at the end would seem to indicate they agreed. Unfortunately, it is also the shortest song on the album, but the remaining tracks offer more than a little solace.
Chip McNeil’s “Rhythm Method” is another new one for me, but like “Fox Hunt” before it, unfamiliarity does not equal bad. In fact, I would say that on an album that has absolutely no filler, this is one of the best songs. Horns aplenty, of course, and we actually get to hear the saxes for a bit, in addition to Ferguson and the other trumpets.
I have to say, I am certain that you will find Maynard Ferguson’s “Live From London” to be a fantastic addition to your personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night!
To learn more about Maynard Ferguson and his music, check out the links at the beginning of this article.
Thanks for reading this.
Wood Village, Oregon
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