Walter “Maynard” Ferguson (May 4, 1928 – August 23, 2006)

“Is there something vulgar about a man in a bright jumpsuit, a long scarf around his massive neck, screeching out a tragic opera theme on a highly amplified trumpet?” With that rhetorical question Washington Post staff writer David Von Drehle’s begins his appreciation [link] of  Maynard Ferguson who died on August the 23.


Ferguson had his admirers, but I could never be counted among them. Having said that, I have to say that I cannot recall ever hearing Ferguson going at it at less than full throttle or showing off the full range of effects, always  in the higher registers, that he was capable of.

“When he played lead, like an octave or two octaves above the band, it lifted you right out of your chair” the saxophonist Lanny Morgan told The Guardian’s obituarist Peter Vasher recently. As that was the only mode in which I ever heard him play, it always lifted me out my chair in order to seek shelter from the musical storm I knew would inevitably follow. It has been said, and by those who know more about such things than I do, that he was capable of being much subtler, and of doing better things,  when the right occasion arose. Unfortunately those occasions didn’t arise when this listener was within hearing distance. 

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