Screech trumpet aficionados mourn Maynard

Published 6:59 am Monday, August 28, 2006

By Staff
A passion for guitar rock has been well-chronicled in this space through the years, but the other guilty pleasure since "Get It On" in high school pep band is screech trumpet.
We lost a favorite Aug. 23 with the death of Maynard Ferguson at 78 in a hospital near his home in Ojai, Calif.
His four daughters were at his side. I remember Kim as his manager back when I received his newsletter, Fanaddicts for Ferguson, in the late 1970s.
Membership got me an autographed photo of the Montreal native soaring on his M.F. horn over Stan Mark and Dennis Noday.
His current manager, Steve Schankman, put it well Aug. 24 from St. Louis: "Someone just said, 'Gabriel, move over to second trumpet.' He was the last of the greats. That era is closed. There is no Kenton, no Basie, no Ellington, and now, no Ferguson."
Ferguson began playing piano and violin at 4, taking up the trumpet at 9 and soloing with the Canadian Broadcasting Co. Orchestra at 11.
At an age most teens learn to drive, the 5-foot-9 musician fronted the first of his bands in a career that produced more than 60 albums and three Grammy nominations.
Down Beat magazine dubbed Stan Kenton's aerial acrobat "Trumpeter of the year" three times.
Ferguson credited yoga for incredible lung capacity which made hitting a double-high-C routine.
Since he seemed like he was throwing his spent lip over his shoulder after we saw him in his 40s, I was quite surprised to learn he was still playing when the Union High jazz band saw Ferguson within the last few years.
I'm not even sure how many times I heard him perform. Four? I consulted the archives.
The first time it was our DUHS jazz band at Grand Valley State University.
On Saturday, May 7, 1977, I saw Ferguson and his orchestra at the Okemos High School Invitational Jazz Festival. I saved the program.
I also have a nice photo of him from CM Life the Feb. 20 he headlined the third annual Jazz Festival at Central Michigan University's Warriner Auditorium sponsored by Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the music fraternity.
More than 200 high school jazz groups competed during two days. Tickets cost $4.
I also remember driving to Alma to see him perform, but no record remains.
He found popularity playing movie music, like the themes from "Rocky" and "Star Wars."
His 1976 album "Conquistador" with Bob James became the biggest-selling big-band record in 15 years.
I agreed with a reviewer on the "Gonna Fly Now" theme from "Rocky" being "surely one of the most vapid, mindless little tunes to come along in many years, through which Ferguson reached the largest audience of his long career."
I also wasn't fond of "New Vintage," which contained a disco-influenced version of "Maria."
Instead of crying, "More cowbell," I implored, "Less flugelhorn."
Not to mention flute solos on "Star Trek." I got my flute from Jethro Tull or not at all.
My ears preferred "MF Horn 4 and 5 – Live at Jimmy's," particularly my all-time favorite, "MacArthur Park," with horns drowning out cloying sweet green icing-dripping lyrics.
"In the early 1950s Ferguson was the high-note artist in Stan Kenton's trumpet section," wrote Frank Conroy. "His sound was unforgettable – a tense, honeyed quality in the middle register, and then, as he climbed upward, more and more personal. It was a sort of dramatic self-assertion in the vibrato as he soared above everything, past high C, into the next octave-and-a-half, where his tone and timbre became unique. (One could hear him planting flags – claiming territory.) … He was irresistible … Ferguson seems to love melodramatic themes – the brave, soaring horn going right to the listener's heart, and right past his head."
In the early '60s, Ferguson abandoned his 30-room mansion and toured the country in a school bus, astounding audiences with strobe lights and other psychedelia.
He also went into "exile" in India during the Sixties.
"In 1967, when I broke up with the band and took my wife and children to England and India," he once said, "I didn't think there was an American market for what I was doing. With no new audiences interested in the directions I was headed … getting away from America gave me a chance to destroy my cookie stamp."
I owe a great debt of gratitude to Niles in pursuit of this screech trumpet passion.
For bringing Doc Severinsen to the first Apple Festival.
For bringing my all-time favorite, the late, great Bill Chase, to the high school shortly before he died in a plane crash.
If ever there was an ill-fated performer it was Chase and his rock-rooted sonic blasts.
First song on the first album which contained the hit "Get It On" was "Open Up Wide."
Then "Ennea."
Then 1974's "Pure Music," closing with the ominous track, "Close Up Tight."
Quips, quotes and qulunkers: "(OutKast) succeeds again with the hybrid movie soundtrack/studio album 'Idlewild' … this could be the last for rap's most inventive act the past dozen years. 'Idlewild' is as sprawling as it is ambitious. Though it isn't always focused, it never fails to entertain. Andre 3000 and Big Boi seamlessly mesh hip-hop, ragtime and swing, giving the genres modern updates (in the) musical set in the South during 1930s Prohibition … 'Morris Brown' struts to the beat of a marching band … they dare to think outside the box … together they are greater than the sum of their very talented parts."
– Steve Jones in USA Today, Aug. 22. That's right, this musical drama is set in fictional Idlewild, Ga., and exploits the storied name of the real northwest Michigan town 60 miles south of Traverse City. In fact, the real Idlewild was a haven for black entertainment during the segregation era. Black professionals from all over the Midwest vacationed there and saw legendary performers such as Louis Armstrong and B.B. King.
Did you know?: The first-season finale of "Flavor of Love" was VH1's highest-rated show ever.
378: Number of "The Simpsons" episodes aired over 17 seasons since the longest-running sitcom and animated program debuted on Dec. 17, 1989.
To get their news, 79 percent of newspaper readers go to the printed paper only; 12 percent to a paper's Web site only; and 9 percent to both, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
Obit: Joe Rosenthal, the Associated Press photographer who won a Pulitzer Prize for his immortal World War II image of six Marines raising an American flag over the Pacific island Iwo Jima, died Aug. 20 at an assisted-living facility in Novato, Calif. He was 94.
Rosenthal shot the famous photo on Feb. 23, 1945.
Rosenthal joined the San Francisco Chronicle later that year and worked there as a photographer for 35 years before retiring.