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August 25, 2006

Jazz Trumpeter Maynard Ferguson Dies

Written by
cindy mcleod

Canadian Jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson Leaves Behind a Great Legacy

Jazz trumpeter and bandleader Maynard Ferguson, who played with Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Kenton, and recorded the hit version of the theme from the “Rocky” movies, has died at the age of 78.

Ferguson died Wednesday night in a Ventura, Calif. hospital with his family by his side. He had been suffering kidney and liver failure caused by an abdominal infection.

The Canadian-born trumpeter’s death comes just weeks after he and his Big Bop Nouveau Band had completed recording an album and on the heels of playing several sold out performances at New York’s Blue Note Club in late July. He had been preparing for a fall tour beginning in Tokyo in September.

Born in a suburb of Montreal on May 4, 1928, Ferguson studied music on several different instruments as a child. At the age of 13, he was featured as a soloist with the CBC Orchestra and led his first band at 17, spawning a career that lasted over 50 years.

Ferguson moved to the U.S. at age 20, where he played in big bands (including Jimmy Dorsey’s) before joining Stan Kenton’s orchestra in 1949, where his signature, upper-register trumpet graced the brass section for over five years.

In 1956 he formed the first of several 13-piece ensembles known for their outstanding horn sections, helping to launch the careers of such jazz notables as Chick Corea, Chuck Mangione, Bob James, Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul.

In the late ’60s and ’70s, he created a musical niche by rearranging pop and rock songs for big bands. It was during this time “Conquistador,” the album that included “Gonna Fly Now,” reached No. 22 on Billboard’s charts and helped rekindle the public’s interest in big bands.

A true legend in the jazz world, Ferguson will also be remembered for his tireless work as an educator, spending countless hours visiting schools to inspire students and helping to raise money for instruments and music programs.

Over the years Ferguson performed with such greats as Count Basie, Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Charlie Barnett and Jimmy Dorsey, recorded over 60 albums, was named Down Beat magazine’s “trumpeter of the year” three times, received three Grammy nominations, and was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1997.

In recognition of his enormous contributions to the music industry, Maynard Ferguson was given the highest honour paid to a Canadian civilian when he was invested as a member of the Order of Canada in December 2004.

A memorial service for Maynard Ferguson will be announced in the coming days to be held later in St. Louis.

for more information on the legendary musician, visit www.maynardferguson.com

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