From Steve Wiest
Long before I had the honor of performing with Maynard Ferguson, I was way into his amazing trumpet playing, his bands, and the great music that he brought forth from the gifted arrangers in his groups. There was always a soulful spark of excitement, a true bit of magic in every piece that he performed. Whether it was the swingin' bebop-laced straight ahead stuff, or a fusion piece or even some of that crazy disco music, an aura of joy always came through. When I joined the band in 1981, I found out that the reason for this consistency was Maynard himself; his sound, his talent, and his happy philosophy.
To be a part of Maynard's band was to join a family. To Maynard, life was something to celebrate, every minute of every day. Every time I ever heard him play, whether it was an important concert, a warm up, a recording, or just buzzing his mouthpiece, he always played as if it was going to be his last chance to do so. I have never seen anyone enjoy music as much as Maynard did, and believe me, this joy was very infectious. All of us in the MF family were constantly moved by his attitude of delight. In fact, I never heard Maynard chuckle, he always laughed out loud in a flat-out affirmation of love. I know that my association with this larger-than-life man has been a great source of inspiration and renewal for me over the 25 years that I've been a part of his party.
While all of us were astounded by his abundant musical gifts and talent, his ability to nurture and further so many musicians that came through his bands was amazing. Maynard taught all of us so very much about pacing a solo, building a phrase, playing a romantic melody and respecting the audience. His gracious approach in lending the stage to his musicians and allowing us all to find ourselves was enormous. In short, he was all about love all the time. It came through loud-and-clear in his music and how he treated his musicians and fans.
People who came to a Maynard concert for the first time would often wonder at the practice of band members shaking hands with him before and after each solo, or his habit of posturing the Indian namaste to each of his musicians. This was Maynard's way of thanking us for the sharing of talent, and saluting all that is holy and divine in each of us. How priceless is THAT? I was so touched and warmed every single time that I shook his hand, gave him a big hug, or received his salute of namaste. I have simply never known a more genuine, happy, sincere, or talented human being. Maynard taught me to appreciate the magic in music, to value what is special and holy in people, and how to pass that on to others. For that lesson and for so many others I am forever grateful.
We have all benefited greatly by the life of this giant man, and while I mourn his passing, I thrill at his music and celebrate his loving legacy.
Steve Wiest Photos of Maynard's Final Recording Session
From Rich Willey
Imagine my surprise when I got called to play for Maynard.
I was living in New York City, and it was September 15, 2001, days after the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked. My "broadway show" gig fell through (a company was making a show out of Dirty Dancing and I got the gig because I played trumpet and valve bone) and my calendar was light on gigs, to say the least.
I had first heard a Maynard album in '73, the MF Horn album. I had already become a confirmed Clifford Brown and Freddie Hubbard devotee, and while I was stunned at the sheer chops of Maynard, it wasn't the direction I was headed, and I didn't buy any of his albums.
When I was in the Army, we went and heard Maynard at a high school in Jessup, GA, probably in '75 or '76. I remember Ron Tooley was on the band, and Stan Mark, and Randy Purcell. I liked some of the arrangements, but it still didn't "grab" me.
A few years later, after adding Clark Terry, Kenny Dorham, Lee Morgan, and Woody Shaw to my list of favorite trumpeters, my college roommate Carey Deadman played me a whole bunch of older, early Maynard sides. I still didn't go out and buy any Maynard albums, but I went and heard the band again in, '79 or so in Denton, TX. I remember leaving there not ever wanting to hear any high notes ever again.
The years passed, and I got to know more players and listened to more people. In '99 I heard that a couple guys I had done gigs with, Carl Fischer and Jeff Rupert, were on Maynard's band, so I went to see what it was about. I actually enjoyed myself that night (Adolpho Acosta was on lead and absolutely nailed it), and talked to Ed Sargent afterward. I gave him one of my CDs with Rick Shaw and Joel Frahm on it (I didn't know they had played with Maynard) and he gave me a card and said to call if I was interested in playing on the band and he'd see what it looked like.
I hadn't given it another thought. There I was, just finished my masters at Manhattan School of Music, scuffling like a thousand other cats in NYC, and I got the call. Ernie Hammes was supposed to make the tour, but something about his passport and the demise of the World Trade Center prevented him from making the gig, and they needed a guy with a passport in a hurry. Jeff Rupert recommended me for the gig, and Pete Ferguson called me, and sure enough, there I went.
I was 46 years old, and if it hadn't been for Jeff Lashway (one year younger than me), I'd have been the only sideman over thirty. My roommate was Patrick Hession. We started in Kansas City. Two or three days of rehearsal, then off for a two-month tour. Turns out I knew the bass player (Joe Porter) from Tampa, so they weren't all strangers. And Maynard was very welcoming toward me.
At night on the bus he'd come up to the front and hang out some. I asked him questions about Mike Abene and Bob Graettinger and Slide Hampton and Wayne Shorter, and he would launch into some great stories about those guys. I was shocked that some of the younger guys on the band sorta rolled their eyes when he'd start into a story they'd heard a hundred times; I enjoyed it. He was quite the story teller.
I'm a bebopper, and not a real range-y player, and felt somewhat inadequate. There was something that happened where I sorta felt like Boss and I connected on a musical level, though: I'd hear him warm up, and he'd play a lot of old tunes, *really* old, like "Sweethearts on Parade" old, and when I blew a solo that night, I'd try to quote one of the tunes I'd heard him play when he was warming up. I never watched him when I was blowing, but I got reports that he used to laugh pretty good at times during my solos when I'd throw in those quotes. About halfway through the tour, I began noticing that he started improvising more in a bebop style than I'd been accustomed to hearing, and I can't help but think that he was sorta playing musical ping-pong with me. It might've been my imagination, but I'm a keen listener, and he certainly wasn't playing that way earlier in the tour.
Anyway, we had been awake and travelling for about 24 hours, sorta dirty and unkempt, and we were sitting in an airport in Puerto Rico, dead tired, waiting for some kind of airport security snafu with all the equipment. He looked at me with this blase expression and said, "Isn't this life glamorous?"
He told me about his brother Percy who had stopped playing hockey and shortly thereafter had some health problems. Boss told me that's why he didn't want to stop touring: he was afraid it'd kill him to leave the road.
I heard the band a couple times since then, and I spotted him with Ed Sargent sneaking off toward the bus, and he said, "Hey, Rich!" I was blown away that he remembered me.
I'll never forget him.
From Nick Drozdoff
The Impact of Maynard Ferguson on My Professional Life as a Trumpeter:
It is 2:50 on August 24, 2006. I just taught 90 minutes of classes putting on a happy face even though I was struggling with a sense of sadness at just hearing of the passing of trumpet legend, Maynard Ferguson. I got through it, and will be fine, of course. More on that, later.
Now, folks who know me well may ask, "Why are you so bothered by this? You only really did three complete tours with him! You didn't even finish a full year!" Well, these queries deserve answers.
First, I left when I did, by and large due to the fact that I was a newlywed when I went on the road with Maynard. My new wife was very supportive of the move onto the road. She knew how important to a young trumpeter it was to go on the road with Maynard Ferguson. However, I felt I had to come home when I did. This was made easier due to some personal challenges (which had NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with Maynard!) I was facing on the road.
Next, those three tours I did with Maynard Ferguson were some of the most cherished moments of my career. My life would not have been the same without them. I learned a great deal about trumpet playing, musicianship, jazz and humanity that I would have missed had I not had that experience. I learned as much about me as I did one of the greatest jazz trumpet legends who ever lived.
Maynard has had a huge impact of the lives of virtually every trumpeter, in some way. Certainly, the legacy of high notes is there. However, Ferguson brought a sense of musicianship and artistry to that aspect of trumpet playing that has only been approached by others. I recently posted a comment in a forum about Maynard's version of Gershwin's "Summertime" on a recording with Max Roach, Dinah Washington and Clifford Brown. In listening to that piece, one can only stand in sheer awe at the power and majesty of his work.
I was more than just an athletic event. It was beautiful music in the hands of a master trumpeter.
For me, The Fox will live on forever in his recordings, of course, but also in the memories of the conversations I had with him during my brief tenure on his band, his words of encouragement and advice through some rough patches I had along with his stories about his experiences with other jazz greats. His jovial and kind nature will never be diminished in my mind. Those moments in hanging out with him on the band bus, on the airplane to Japan, on bullet train platforms, the rehearsals in Orlando Florida, his joking around with us, will always be with me. I'll never forget the time he met my wife and then treated her to my getting to trade solos with him on Latino Lovewalk at Rolling Meadows High School. When Alan Wise dubbed me "Studio Man," Ferguson was like another little kid with that, too! I could go on, but I'll spare you. I may have only done three tours, but oh what a three tours those were!
In short, I am a very privileged man. I got to be on the road with one of the greatest jazz legends of our time. Certainly, he'll be missed, but rather than morn his passing, I am going to celebrate his life and all the beauty and joy he brought us.
Much gratitude is due to Maynard Ferguson, for my part.
From Mike Fahn
He was a very thoughtful, kind man, open to new ideas from his players, and allowed us to shape the music to his and our liking. He was very open to me especially, because I play Valve Trombone, he really identified with my playing, and afforded me alot of solo space, as well as trading solos with me, which was fantastic, because he was so inspiring and energetic to play with, one on one. He made you play UP to him, he rarely had a bad night, so I did not either. I just could not have a bad night. Maynard encouraged me to start doubling on Slide Trombone, which was very helpful to me, because I took a liking to Slide, and now love to play both instruments as well as I can. Thank you Boss.
My dad is a jazz drummer, and his favorite musicians were horn players like Stan Getz, Al Cohn, Bob Brookmeyer, and Maynard, as well as other instrumentalists. The main reason I started playing Trumpet, and Valve Trombone, was because of Maynard, and Bob Brookmeyer, 2 of my biggest horn player influences. I got a hold of his recordings, like MF Horn 1, 2, 3, Primal Scream, and 4 and 5, as soon as they came out, and went to see him with my brothers at high schools on Long Island, and at Jazz Festivals and Disneyland in the 1970s and 80s, many times, and never did I ever dream that I would work with him. Ever major jazz figure that I like worked with Maynard.
My experience traveling and working with Maynard: Some of this I covered previously, he was a great supporter of schools and education, so when there was time, we went to the gigs, at the schools, and did little sessions for the students, which were greatly educational for me. I traveled with Maynard from 1989-91, went to Japan, Brazil, all over the U.S.A, I got to play with great people, with whom I have friendships with today. I thank Maynard so much for that. I got to play authentic Brazilian music when I was there with Boss, even recorded with musicians there, while with Maynard. What a blessing, to have met so many great people thru Boss. On the bus trips, he was such a great storyteller, since he had so many great experiences himself. I was going thru some tough times personally, during one the tours, and, without me even telling him about it, he was so approachable, I probably could have, he personally talked to me, to encourage me to keep my chin up, everything would be just fine. I will always be greatful to Maynard for that and other one on ones I had with him, he made me feel special, very generous to me, respected me, there was no fakeness about him, when it was time to hit the bandstand, you had to, as I said earlier, play UP to him, that was an amazing thing for him to do for me. In closing, he is truly a legend, as a musician, but more importantly, for me, a friend, and fellow collaborator, on AND off the bandstand.
Rich Szabo: How Maynard Changed My Life
Growing up as a trumpet student in the 60s I was enamored with Herb Alpert As a lot of us would do, I would play along with the Tijuana Brass recordings attempting to sound like Herb. All that changed when my Junior High School band director took us to see Maynard Ferguson. This was the British band which was amazing. I had never heard of Maynard before this and when he came out and the band went into Blue Birdland my jaw hit the floor. I was not amazed, I was awe struck. That moment my life changed. I turned to my fellow band members and said Someday Im going to play in that band. Ten years later there I was in the trumpet section of Maynards big band.
Those ten years between first hearing and seeing MF a lot went on. Whenever the band would be in town I would say to my dad, Hey, Maynards band is in town can we go? He would say sure, where are they playing? Raleigh, North Carolina. (we lived in Jersey) My father being the supportive man that he was would pack me up and off we would go. If the band was withing 500 miles we were there. I became a total Mayanrd junkie.
Once I got my drivers license it was a different story. Then it was off on my own to see the band. It got to the point where I would show up as the band was loading in and help carry equipment in. All the guys knew me on a first name basis after awhile and took me under their wings. I was in trumpet heaven hanging with my trumpet idols. It got to a point where on school vacations they would invite me out on the road to ride the bus. I dont know how many times over those years in high school and the beginning of college I spent sharing a room with Stan Mark, Dennis Noday, Joe Mosello, Randy Purcell. It was a dream come true.
Maynard took a liking to me and would actually let me sit in at rehearsals. All the guys would give me pointers and show me things they never taught you in music school.
I remember the very first time I got to actually play with the band. It was at the Raja Theater in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1976. I went to the concert with a friend. During the intermission backstage, Maynard asked if I had my horn with me. When I said it was in the car, he told me to go get it, I was going to play with the band the second set. Talk about mind blowing!
I was invited to the recording sessions in New York when the band was recording Chameleon. To sit in the booth next to Jay Chattaway while the band was recording was an experience I will never forget.
The day I got the call to actually join the band it was 6am. Stan Mark called and said there was an opening and did I want it. I was speechless. I joined the band in 1979 and played in the greatest trumpet section I have ever played in. Stan Mark, Joe Mosello, Danny Barber and myself.
Every night was a trumpet lesson standing there watching Maynard. He taught me 3 position yoga breathing. How to not confuse the mechanics of trumpet playing with show biz. He actually gave the four of us a talk one night before we went on. He said youre making it look too easy out there. Make it look as though this is really hard. If people know its easy, they wont pay to see us. Those words made the lightbulb go off. I use that with students as well as in clinics. Not to collapse the show biz onto the mechanics of playing. How many times have we tried to emulate a great player having watched them live and crashed and burned? The two have nothing to do with each other.
The years before and during my time with the band, I made lifelong friends that are like family. The experiences I had being with Maynard will always be with me. To be a part of a musical legacy is an honor that is very humbling to say the least. To look at the lineage of musicians who have played in the band and to know I was a part of that is a gift that was given me.
Every gig I have had since those days was a direct or in-direct result of having been on Maynards band. I have my career because of Maynard Ferguson. There are no words to describe the feeling of having him gone.
Om Sai Ram Admiral