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September 28, 2005

Canadian Jazz Trumpeter Maynard Ferguson

Written by
cindy mcleod

Canadian Jazz Trumpeter Maynard Ferguson celebrated his 77th birthday earlier this year, but shows no signs of slowing down as he launched yet another 2005 tour yesterday. With multiple dates booked throughout the United States, Ferguson’s calendar is full well into next year, an astounding schedule for anyone to keep, save one of august years.

Born near Montreal, Ferguson studied piano and violin as a young child, first picking up the trumpet at the age of nine. As did many young musicians of that time, he began playing in dance bands during his teens, offering him the apprentice/mentorship relationship unique to that environment, and influencing his musical direction. As an adult he moved to the U.S. and played in the Big Bands of Boyd Raeburn, Jimmy Dorsey, and Charlie Barnet, but gained his first real recognition for his work in the Stand Kenton band, during which time he was named Trumpeter Of The Year in Downbeat’s polls of 1951, 52 and 53.

Ferguson recorded under his own name for the first time in 1950, and since that time has become known for his small Big Band sound, with his ensembles averaging 12 to 13 members. He’s had the occasional foray into smaller ensembles (such as his fusion septet High Voltage in the late 80’s), but in 1990 he formed the nonet Big Bop Nouveau, with whom he’s continued touring eight months out of twelve since that time (with various personnel changes over the years).

Known for his virtuosity in the upper registers of the trumpet (he played three octaves higher than anyone else at that time), Ferguson has captured the hearts of many for his expressive, lyrical style, and creative improvisational ability. He is a high energy player, and renowned for his enthusiasm and sharing nature with music students. He is considered to be leading edge with his sound, remaining current and ever-evolving, and had major hits with Gonna Fly Now, (theme from Rocky), and the theme from Battlestar Gallactica amongst his discography of over fifty recordings.

Even though Ferguson has had many of the great Canadian talents in his ensembles such as Rob McConnell, Phil Gray and Georgie Auld, (Kenney Wheeler composed and arranged for his English band, with whom he recorded the megahit MacArthur’s Park), his greatest joy is to encourage and guide young musicians, often featuring them in his own groups, and his preference is to play colleges and universities, where he can reach as many young upstarts as possible. Earlier this year Jim Brennan of Calgary was his tenor saxophonist.

In December of 2004, Maynard Ferguson was inducted as a Member of the Order of Canada, the highest honour Canadians pay to their heroes for their contributions. Keep your eyes open for this great musician to appear in your hometown, with the miles this man continues to travel and the many performances he gives, you can be sure he’ll find his way to your neighbourhood! www.maynard.ferguson.net

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