Friday, August 25, 2006

No One Played High Notes Like 'The Lip'

Maynard Ferguson RIP, originally uploaded by mightymerk.

I learned this morning that Maynard Ferguson has passed away.

For those of you who don’t know Maynard Ferguson, he was what many regarded as the last great jazz trumpeters.

I first became familiar with Maynard Ferguson in high school. I started playing trumpet in 4th grade and by the time I started high school I chose music over sports as my primary extra curricular activity. At the time all the older kids spent most of their non formal practice time on exercises that increased their range so they could hit these high notes that at the time I never even knew could be produced by the instrument. It was only later that I learned these notes were not only capable of being played but were surpasses by the person they were all trying to emulate, Maynard Ferguson.

Our Jazz program always included at least one arrangement by Maynard. Sometimes it was “Gonna Fly Now” (which brought Maynard his largest commercial success) or MacArthur Park. Somehow each and every year we always had a horn player or two who had the chops to pull it off…almost but never quite as strong or high as Maynard.

A few personal Maynard moments:

At a Jazz clinic in High School I got to scat sing with Dennis DiBlasio, an alumni with the Maynard Ferguson band. I remember him doing a Maynard impression something to the effect of “Hey get me some pasta”…*squeals a high note*…hey get me some lamb chops *rips another solo* …etc. etc. (Maynard loved food as much as his trumpet)

A few years ago a few of my friends and I were able to attend a concert at a local high school that Maynard was putting on. The last 20 years or so of Maynard’s life were equally dedicated to being a professional performer and an educator. We all were musicians, and all teetered on going or now. I kind of viewed it as my one and perhaps only chance to see Maynard. Needless to see we did go to the concert and my instincts were right. After speaking with my buddy Christian today we both had fond memories of the night and appreciated the fact that we went.

About two months ago I was in Chicago and spent some time at a Jazz club. I happened to catch a set of Tom Garling’s, a trombonist and alumni of the Maynard Ferguson band. Besides signing the CD I bought from him we also spent a few minutes talking about his time with the Maynard. Tom sounded really appreciative of the time he spent with Maynard and the experience and opportunities his time with Maynard brought him.

Maynard Ferguson was known the world over for his great range when playing in the upper register (high notes), signature kiss-offs, and love of food. While some jazz purest take exception to Maynard showmanship and commercial ventures (perhaps with some merit), I would argue that it was Maynard who captured the attention of most of my contemporary’s and possessed almost unmatched longevity. That will be his lasting legacy.

Rest In Peace Maynard ‘The Lip’ Ferguson

Maynard Ferguson May 4th 1928 – August 23rd 2006

Posted by mightymerk, 8:19 AM


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