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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Living Era CD AJA 5659




1. Diz Duz Everything
2. Body And Soul
3. All the Things You Are
4. Maynard Ferguson
5. Take the "A" Train
6. Short Wave
7. Love Locked Out
8. The Band Ain't Draggin'
9. The Hot Canary
10. What's New?
11. King's Riff
12. Wow!
13. The Way You Look Tonight
14. All God's Chillun Got Rhythm
15. Over the Rainbow
16. Hymn to Her
17. Wonder Why
18. C'est la Blues
19. Miss Pitlack Regrets
20. Maynard the Fox
21. The Wailing Boat
22. Say it with Trumpets
23. Everybody Moan
24. You Said It

Maynard Ferguson Ė Trumpet, bass trumpet, valve trombone
With his Orchestra (tracks 5-8, 12, 17-19), his Octet (tracks 13-16) and The Birdland Dreamband (tracks 20-24)
Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra (tracks 1, 2)
Charlie Barnet and his Orchestra (track 3)
Stan Kenton and his Orchestra (tracks 4, 9, 10)
Ben Webster and his Sextet (track 11)

A trumpeter reaching up to the stratosphere, playing notes which seem to reach the areas that only dogs hear, can be very exhilarating - but also rather painful. Maynard Ferguson, who died last August, made his name as one of these high-note trumpeters. He could also play sweetly (in Harry James style) in the trumpetís lower register, as he does here on Body and Soul, although he still breaks away from the mellow sound to explore the upper reaches.

This album is subtitled "The Formative Years" and contains recordings made between 1949 and 1956, but it displays Maynard already fully formed in his ability to push the trumpet to its upper limits. He was one of the young lions who made the Stan Kenton band so remarkable in the early fifties. His eponymous party piece with that band (track 4) is certainly impressive, and Shorty Rogersí arrangement spotlights Fergusonís brilliance.

The trouble is that, once youíve played the highest notes you can, the only way is down. And a whole album in which most tracks include some of these piercing sounds becomes not only repetitive but tiresome, especially with shrieking noises such as those on The Hot Canary (which Maynard himself apparently disliked). By the time I reached the third track, I was already wearied by this showing-off, which even taints lovely melodies like All the Things You Are.

Some of the small-group tracks show more restraint - like Kingís Riff, which has attractive solos from saxists Ben Webster and Benny Carter. Miss Pitlack Regrets is also bearable, but only because it is a feature for trombonist Bob Burgess. The Band Ainít Dragginí gets by because of its good humour (and jolly band vocals) but Maynard still forces out those high notes. At least he plays them in tune more consistently than (say) Cat Anderson, whose piercing trumpet often sounded like a flight of berserk mosquitoes overdosing on helium. Maynard Fergusonís virtuosic ability is undoubted but perhaps he was to be preferred when acting as a bandleader rather than as a featured soloist. Those screeching top notes remind me of a sign I saw in a jewellerís shop window, which said "Ear piercing while you wait"!

Tony Augarde

see also review by Jonathan Woolf


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