Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Paquito D'Rivera on "Alfred Nobel and the Invention of the Microphone"

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


Many Jazz fans, particularly those with an awareness of sound engineering and audio systems, have been making the argument that Paquito D’Rivera puts forth in the following essay for years.

Of course, the title that the Cuban-born clarinetist and saxophonist and winner of 14 Grammy Awards chose for this piece is an intentional error meant to capture the attention of the reader and thereby reinforce the point he is making in this article which appeared in the Woodshed: Pro Session column of the June 15, 2015 issue of Downbeat magazine.

Paquito explains it this way.
                                                     
“I strongly believe that technology is here to help the art form, not to overwhelm it. But tragically, with a few exceptions, the invention of the microphone (credited to the German Emile Berliner in 1876) has had truly damaging results — almost as damaging as the dynamite invented by Alfred Nobel in 1867.

Both have been abused to create irreversible devastation: namely, material destruction by the latter, and serious damage to the good taste of listeners by Berliner's artificial amplification device. All of that came to be with the support of sound engineers and the consent of the musicians—some of them talented professionals—who increasingly ask for more and more volume in their reference speakers, and consequently in the house. It seems as if we've all reached the same conclusions that the louder music is heard, the better it is; that volume is supposed to be a synonym for energy; and that the one who screams loudest is the one who wins. Doesn't it go that way? How sad!

I have witnessed the volume and reverb go up so high on Dave Valentin's flute that it converted his gorgeous, natural sound on tunes like "Obsesion," the beautiful Pedro Florez classic that Valentin and his many fans enjoy so much, into something more appropriate for a heavy metal band. These days, the circus-like atmosphere, the unnatural pyrotechnics, the reliance upon gimmicks to provoke easy applauses, bad taste and excessive volume have hit jazz and popular music with such tsunami-like force that everything now is forte and fortissimo.

A few years ago, the legendary recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder— who made all those famous recordings for Impulse, Blue Note, CTI and Atlantic with John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Lee Morgan and all those hip jazzmen of the '50s and '60s — had the guts to say that jazz pianists don't want or don't know how to get a decent sound on the piano. And, to a certain point, he was right, since it is really difficult to find jazz pianists with the elegant, delicate yet swinging sound of Kenny Barron, Teddy Wilson, Makoto Ozone, Renee Rosnes, Oscar Peterson or Bill Evans. There is no doubt that some of the fault lies with the drummers who play louder every day, forcing the pianists to bang on the keys and ask for more volume in their wedges, thus destroying the inherent acoustic character of the instrument. I'll bet that was one of the reasons that Nat "King" Cole many times didn't use a drummer in his trio.

"Give me more piano in my monitor" is the usual request onstage, and my response is always a simple question: "Why don't you play more softly so that you can hear what the freakin' pianist is playing? You left the brushes at home, or what?"
The great Argentinean pianist Jorge Dalto was convinced that drummers were carriers of the "original sin," and when they did play another way-meaning softly and tastefully — it was with great effort and went against their nature. "Otherwise, they would have taken up the harp or the violoncello, no?" he would say, half in jest. I think Dalto was exaggerating a little bit, since you are still able to find drummers like Ben Riley, Ernie Adams or the wonderful Brazilian Edu Ribeiro to swing your butt off without breaking your eardrums. So, please do not misunderstand me. The drum set, as well as the brass and even the saxophones, are instruments that have strong sonorous presence. I think that keeping that in mind all the time would make a big difference in balance and finesse.

Here is a statement that I've been hearing since my early days at the conservatory: "If you can't hear the guy next to you, you're playing too loud. That's the only way to play in tune." But how in heaven can I listen and play in tune with the guy next to me if I am not even able to hear my own horn with all that noise around me? And then, since the electric bass emerged on the scene, we have the bassists who think they're always playing with Kiss or Metallica. Usually they ally with the drummers, and I even think that they buy earplugs together, in sets of four, so that they can have some fun among themselves while making life unbearable for the rest of the musicians.

Wynton Marsalis told me once that he thought that mics are here to enhance the music, not to cover it. That's probably why they have removed even the contact microphone from the contrabass of Carlitos Henriquez (I love his walking bass!) in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra — so the drummer has to come down to hear what his partner in rhythm is doing.

One evening at the annual jazz festival in Punta del Este, Uruguay, trumpet player and bandleader Terence Blanchard ordered the removal of all the microphones, including that of exquisite pianist Ed Simon. And guess what? Miraculously, everything was heard crystal-clear and with tremendous energy and swing.
The only thing required was to be quiet, and to listen with attention. That is what music was invented for in the first place, isn't it?                              DB
Paquito D'Rivera is celebrated for his artistry in Latin jazz as well as his achievements as a classical composer and performer. He is also known for his heartfelt convictions and playful sense of humor. Visit him online at www.paquitodrivera.com.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Storytelling in Jazz: Composing in the Moment

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“After you initiate the solo, one phrase determines what the next is going to be. From the first note that you hear, you are responding to what you've just played: you just said this on your instrument, and now that's a constant. What follows from that? And then the next phrase is a constant. What follows from that? And so on and so forth. And finally, let's wrap it up so that everybody understands that that's what you're doing. It's like language: you're talking, you're speaking, you're responding to yourself. When I play, it's like having a conversation with myself.”
— Max Roach

In conversations about Jazz, the phrase “tell a story” is often used to describe a Jazz solo or what a Jazz soloist is doing in a solo.

But what does “tell a story” actually mean?

I found the following explanation in Paul Berliner’s Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation and thought I’d share it with you so we could both have a better understanding of how the Jazz artist goes about “composing in the moment” - storytelling in Jazz.

“In part, the metaphor of storytelling suggests the dramatic molding of creations to include movement through successive events "transcending" particular repetitive, formal aspects of the composition and featuring distinct types of musical material. For early jazz players like Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet, and for swing players like Lester Young, storytelling commonly involved such designs for multiple choruses as devoting an initial chorus to interpreting a piece's melody, devoting the next to expressive liberties varying it, and then returning to the melody or proceeding on to other events such as single-note riffing patterns.

For contemporary players, who may place less emphasis on the melody, the considerations of shaping remain just as essential. Typically, when it comes time for Buster Williams to solo, he "wants to tell a story, and the best way to tell a story is to set it up." If someone who is "very excited about something that just happened" comes running to Williams "saying, 'Buster, blah-blah-blah-blah,' the first thing I'm going to say is, 'Look, wait a minute. Calm down and start from the beginning.'" Williams's plan is the same for solo work. "Start from the beginning," he advises. "It's also like playing a game of chess. There's the beginning game, the middle game, and then there's the end game. Miles is a champion at doing that. So is Trane. To accomplish this, the use of space is very important—sparseness and simplicity—maybe playing just short, meaningful phrases at first and building up the solo from there."

Similarly, Kenny Barron tries "to start the solo in a way that's sparse or low key" so that he has "somewhere to go, so that the solo can build." From listening to Dizzy Gillespie when he performed in Gillespie's band, Barron learned how to "save" himself in his playing. "You don't have to play everything you know every minute," Barron says.

You can leave some spaces in the music. You're not going to start off a solo double-timing. You start off just playing very simply and, as much as possible, with lyrical ideas. And as the intensity builds, if it does, your ideas can become a little more complicated. They can become longer. The way I look at it is that you're going to start down so that you have somewhere to go. It can build to different points in different parts of the solo. It's hills and valleys. That's what it is anywhere. There are certain sections of the tune which build harmonically and suggest that the intensity should also build at that particular point. That's a very natural thing to happen, and what you play will always build there. Other times, it's a matter of wherever it occurs, wherever you feel it coming. It could happen in different spots within the tune at different times.

A related feature of storytelling involves matters of continuity and cohesion. Paul Wertico advises his students that in initiating a solo they should think in terms of developing specific "characters and a plot. . . . You introduce these little different [musical] things that can be brought back out later on; and the way you put them together makes a little story. That can be [on the scale of] a sentence or a paragraph. . . . The real great cats can write novels." Wertico expresses admiration for the intellectual prowess of these players. Throughout a performance, they creatively juxtapose ideas that they introduced in their initial "character line," and at just "the right time" in their story, they can "pull out" and develop ideas that they "only hinted at" earlier in the performance but have borne in mind all along. "That's what's really fantastic about a solo," Wertico maintains.

To develop the skills of expert storytellers, artists find it essential to devote some practice time to improvising under conditions that simulate formal music events, thereby imposing maximum constraints upon performances. Negotiating a composition's structure as "one cohesive string," with each chord leading to the next in strict rhythm, they formulate complete solos, pausing but momentarily to reflect on their inventions. "To learn to play a song better," Art Farmer would "work on its chords, chorus after chorus, trying to play whatever came to mind. Even if it didn't come out right, I'd keep playing," he says. "At certain times, it's not good to stop."

Musicians commit themselves to the rigors of developing the ideas that occur to them at the moment, cultivating powers of concentration upon which larger-scale invention depends. "After a lot of practice, you find that the phrases just begin to fall in the right place," Harold Ousley recalls. "You are able to play a whole chorus of phrases together, and you are ready for the next chorus. The more you do it, the smoother and the easier it gets. When you begin to feel proficient at this, you feel a certain sense of freedom, and you get the inspiration to really get into your horn and to try out different things. There's a great excitement about that."

As Ousley's remarks imply, the improviser's world of imagination considers more than musical abstractions. Emotion serves as a partner to intellect in the conception and expansion of ideas. Beyond emotional responses to their evolving creations, artists speak generally of "tapping an emotional reservoir," whose "energy" represents a distillation of their experiences with life . Roberta Baum considers emotion to be "the biggest part of singing. It has become an extension of how it is to be alive," she says. In this sense, performances can reflect the individual's characteristic scope of expression, including extreme fluctuations of feeling.

As alluded to earlier, artists can also draw upon the extra-musical associations of the compositions that serve as vehicles. They sometimes set up for performances by dwelling momentarily on a piece's moods and meanings, recalling, perhaps, the sense of personal identification with the theme of a standard piece that prompted its incorporation into their repertory, or envisioning the characters and incidents depicted in their own original compositions. At times, Dexter Gordon actually sang a few lines of a ballad's lyrics to invoke its meaning, before switching to saxophone improvisations.26 With song texts, or in their absence, the emotional sentiment and the imagery suggested by titles and musical features also offer direction.27

Overall, a piece's precise mood has a powerful tempering effect on improvisers, guiding their personal feelings to blend with those appropriate for the performance. For Arthur Rhames, " 'God Bless the Child' [evokes] one set of moods about the remorse of not being on your own or having to depend on others, while a tune like 'Giant Steps' may be about advancing yourself"; each provides "different perspectives, different feelings, different moods. And those moods govern a lot of what's going to come out in your interpretation of the chord changes in your improvising." Chuck Israels also routinely takes the mood of the piece into account when he prepares to solo. Over the course of an evening, "I'll play a tune like The Preacher' that has a certain gospel flavor; then a tune like Bill Evans' 'Peri's Scope,' which is an outgoing, dancing, lighthearted tune. [Next, I will] play something melancholy, like 'Nardis.'"

There is a constant spending and replenishment of a player's emotional reserves. [Bassist Chuck] Israels performs "tunes that have different emotional states" in order to give himself "different things to think about, different things to feel and to play" when he improvises. Each tune has "its own feelings, its own shapes and patterns that occupy me when I play it," he explains. "You just jump from one emotional mood to another because the moods change with each piece." Sometimes, Emily Remler says, "when I play a ballad like In a Sentimental Mood, I feel almost sick to my stomach because it is so heartrending and takes so much from me." A piece's emotional associations commonly influence an artist's rhythmic approach or selection of tonal materials, in the latter instance suggesting, perhaps, an emphasis upon blues-inflected melodies rather than brighter, uninflected melodies or upon tense rather than relaxed harmonies.

Throughout the piece, artists may prepare themselves to respond to each of its varied nuances, beyond its most general tenor. [Guitarist] Emily Remler, looking forward to "a gig tonight," knows "that there are sections where I'll feel a lot of different emotions. The [composition] breaks into a real happy part, and it makes me feel really happy. Then there are other parts where I'll just feel determined." In some instances, the elements of a piece combine to reinforce a particular emotional shape overall, suggesting that improvisers structure their own creations accordingly. In a blues, an artist may build toward peaks of intensity at the same point as the harmony and poetic text reach a dramatic climax.

Various aspects of the meanings of compositions are also tied to their performance histories, especially the ways in which earlier improvisers have handled their original compositions . When Jimmy Robinson prepares to solo, he "thinks about the things that have been done on the tune in the past" and what he would "like to do on it." Of course, he says, if he has "never heard the tune before" or is performing his own pieces, he "just strikes out" on his own. If it is a recent piece by someone like Dizzy Gillespie, however, he wants "to know what Dizzy did on it just to give me an idea to start with, so I won't be too far off with it." Robinson's intention is to be respectful to "the idea" of the composer. "That also shows that I've been influenced by Dizzy," he says, "since he did some very intricate things on it that I wish I had come up with [he laughs]. You try to play in relationship to that to learn what he's doing, and then you try to build and improve on it."

Renowned artists have sometimes improvised so effectively within the framework of other composers' works, bringing fresh interpretations to them, that they leave an indelible mark upon the works' performance traditions and on those of pieces with comparable styles. Walter Bishop Jr. learned the general principles for formulating solos within modal compositions by analyzing Miles Davis's solos. Another trumpeter admitted that after "Miles's playing on 'Sketches of Spain,' it is impossible to improvise on any Spanish-type piece without using some of Miles's inflections." A composition "like 'Nardis' also has a lot of connotation because Bill Evans played it so much," Fred Hersch observes. Along similar lines, even if Roberta Baum "were to give my own interpretation of a song by Cole Porter, there is no way that I could forget how Ella Fitzgerald had phrased something." A commemorative piece lends itself particularly to an interpretation imbued with the stylistic traits of the honored namesake. In rendering the ballad "I Remember Clifford," Lee Morgan integrates his own personal blues-oriented commentaries into the ballad's theme, at times adopting Clifford Brown's wide, singing vibrato, unique articulation devices, and characteristic embellishments.28 Sometimes, it is in the very act of improvising that players discover and pursue the deep connections that compositions and the individual styles of soloists reveal to them.29

For improvisers, the meaning of a piece incorporates layers of nuance derived from intimacy with its imagery, its rhythmic and tonal associations, its performance history, and its relatives within the wider repertory of pieces. Among the myriad resources that soloists filter through their imaginations, one of the most striking is the vibrancy of the human connections that inhabit the piece—myriad inflections, personalities, voices, fingerings, and stances, coursing through the mind and into the musical performance. Such varied imagery informs and deepens every story in the telling. In a sense, each solo is like a tale within a tale, a personal account with ties of varying strength to the formal composition.

While absorbing the conventions associated with idea formulation and storytelling in the jazz tradition, artists place different emphases upon the conventions. They apply them uniquely according to each individual's temperament, personal style of jazz oratory, emotional response to compositions, and specific goals for the solo under formulation. As expected, the differing emphases result in correspondingly varied transformations of jazz vocabulary and in different formal characteristics among the solos produced by improvisation.

Underlying their efforts to achieve such diversity of expression is rigorous practice on the part of jazz learners, as they develop flexibility in the use of initially limited stores of vocabulary, devise a systematic way of relating vocabulary patterns one to another, and absorb the aesthetic principles that guide vocabulary usage. Students with such comprehensive training are in a far better position as improvisers than are those among their counterparts who may have acquired a large store of vocabulary patterns, chords, scales, and the like, but yet fail to appreciate these other critical aspects of jazz knowledge. Ultimately, learning the tools and techniques of the art provides only the ground for the student's development. To build the foundation, aspiring musicians must commit endless hours to practicing improvisation—mentally simulating the conditions of live performance events—if they are to acquire the cumulative experience upon which effective storytelling rests. Among the challenges practicers confront in their earliest efforts are improvisation's capricious aspects, which can operate as powerful forces to influence a work's musical outcome.”

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Magic City - El Real Alcázar de Sevilla - Paquito D'Rivera

Joe Williams - A JazzProfiles Snapshot

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


Whether it was with Count Basie’s band from 1954 to 1960 or with one of the many trios that accompanied him later in his career, particularly the ones led by pianists Junior Mance and Norman Simmons, Joe Williams was always right up there with The Best of The Blues Belters.

Williams followed Billy Eckstine in bringing a new sophistication to “... the black male singer’s stance.”

And while he made his reputation with the Basie Band as a blues singer, Joe was equally at home with standards and original materials.

Joe Williams endured marvelously and sang with power and assurance well into his seventies [He died in 1999 at the age of 81.]]. He had great time and a marked assurance in his vocal delivery.

I came across this remembrance of Joe by the esteemed Jazz writer Gene Lees recently and I thought his brief insight into Joe’s greatness and a video featuring Joe singing his trademark version of Everyday I Have The Blues would make for a fun JazzProfiles snapshot of one of my favorite vocalists.

Joe Williams is one of the great bass-baritone singers of our time. He astounds me every time I hear him: the range and flexibility of his voice, his utter control of it, the depth of its passion. Joe is known as a blues singer, and he is a great one, but he is also one of the most sensitive ballad singers ever to grace popular music. And I have never heard a singer swing a band the way Joe can.

He grew up in Chicago, where he experienced severe discrimination, and not only from whites. Within the black community, the ideal was what Joe called "light-skinned pretty boys.” He once said, "My light-skinned black brothers really whipped a racist color game on me.” As handsome and imposing as he is, he was, he says, at least twenty-five before he was "comfortable with my blackness.”

Joe is very much a product of the rich Chicago jazz tradition. He gained his early experience in that city, working with bands led by clarinetist Jimmie Noone and pianist and organist Tiny Parham. In 1943, he joined Lionel Hampton's band at the minuscule (even for those days) salary of eleven dollars a night. Through the 1940s, he worked various bands, never getting the recognition he deserved. He worked briefly with Count Basie in 1950. Then, in 1954, he re-joined Basie and recorded Memphis Slim's Every Day I Have the Blues. It brought him the stardom that had eluded him for twenty years. With wry humor, he quotes Duke Ellington: "They don't want you to get famous too young. You might get a chance to enjoy it."

But Joe did get a chance to enjoy it. Nearly forty years after "Every Day" became a hit, he was still singing it, still exercising that great, glorious, incomparable voice.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Victor Feldman: The Artful Dodger - A JazzProfiles Snapshot

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


For many years, Philip Elwood covered jazz, rock, blues and comedy, the entire panorama of nightlife, for the San Francisco Examiner beginning in 1965. He continued his career at The Chronicle after the two papers merged in 2000 and retired in 2002. He was an endless fount of jazz lore, an unflagging enthusiast of the music and a world-class raconteur blessed with an extraordinary memory.


During my many visits to San Francisco, I always looked forward to reading his columns on Jazz.


As a critic for half a century, Elwood pursued a lifelong love affair with the music that began in the living room of the Berkeley home of Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange, when he first heard a record by Louis Armstrong as a high school student.


"I wish I could go back and stand in that living room again," he said in a 2004 interview. "I'd remember exactly how it felt."


He was also one of the first people to broadcast jazz on the FM dial. His weekly radio program, "Jazz Archive," began in 1952, when very few people even owned FM radios. His show continued on Berkeley's KPFA until 1996.


"Talk about old school," said rock musician Huey Lewis, "he was a music lover. Imagine that. He actually loved the music. They don't make 'em like that anymore."


When I moved to San Francisco during the decade of the 1990’s, I had the good fortune to meet and talk about Jazz with Philip on a number of occasions. We shared a common passion for the music of pianist and vibist Victor Feldman.


It all began when I casually mentioned to Philip one night at a SF Cultural Events Committee dinner meeting at The Bankers Club which sits high atop the Bank of America Building how much I enjoyed the liner notes he had written to Victor Feldman’s Concord LP - The Artful Dodger [Concord Jazz CCD-4038].


I told him how much I appreciated his use of the word “phenomenal” in association with Victor’s musicianship and he said he had been following Feldman’s career since he first heard him on piano as a member of Shelly Manne’s Quintet appearance at The Blackhawk in September, 1959. [The music from this performance has been issued on a 5 CD set on Contemporary/Original Jazz Classics which is now a part of the Concord Music Group].

While listening to The Artful Dodger again recently, I thought that Philip’s insert notes combined with the title track from the CD which you can hear as the soundtrack to one of the concluding videos to this piece might make for an interesting JazzProfiles snapshot.


“Victor Feldman is a living refutation of most of the foolish generalizations applied to jazz musicians.


He is a brilliant multi-instrumentalist; a hot drummer in his native Britain while still a very young schoolboy; a white member of black jazz groups (such as Cannonball Adderley's); a composer of pop numbers as well as classic jazz-he wrote the "Seven Steps to Heaven" score along with Miles Davis, "Dance the Night Away" which Rhythm Heritage converted into a disco hit, etc.; he plays grand jazz on all his instruments yet is a sought-after "studio musician" and composer in the Hollywood scene; he works with skill and flair on acoustic piano as well as such keyboards as the Fender-Rhodes piano, Arp Oddessy, and Moog Synthesizer.


He has accompanied such diverse artists as Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Seals and Crofts, Peggy Lee and dozens of others (and toured with most of them) and he now plays regularly with The L.A. Express and records with the likes of Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and almost everyone who can grab his talents to enhance their microgrooves.


And there is more, but you get the idea.


Feldman, in a word, is phenomenal; and he has been all his life, since from his 1940 stage debut to this trio recording no one has been involved in more areas of pop music than has he.


Listening to this recording the first impression is of Feldman's remarkable strength, his forcefulness. And that doesn't imply pounding or volume for its own sake. It does mean that Feldman has not only remarkable musical concepts but also the ability to play them with clarity and assertion.


His keyboard technique is above reproach and is matched by his brilliance on vibes and drums; his knowledge of rhythms and meters, and the possibilities inherent in combining melodic lines with percussion expressions, greatly expands the sounds of any group within which he works.


One can hear the Feldman touch on Steely Dan recordings, and on Freddie Hubbard's High Energy release.


Playing in a trio context, Feldman's feeling for the ensemble unit is immediately apparent...note on Limehouse Blues, the opening track here, that he begins with bold, bright piano strokes emphasizing the tune's minor-key possibilities. Playing the first chorus in 2/4, Feldman switches to 4/4 at the keyboard leaving bassist Monty Budwig for a time to hold the 2/4 meter.


But after a couple of minutes and fine piano lines Budwig almost erupts into a long solo while Feldman builds mounds of chords gradually in the background.


Limehouse, as done by Feldman, Budwig and drummer Colin Bailey, proves that an oldie can be played as a modern goodie.


Agitation begins like it is a 21 st century bebop anthem, tricky and complex. Oriental chords and pentatonic scales roam through stop-time, syncopated strains and Bailey has a field day, ultimately playing a solo that sounds like a duet with himself.


The airiness of A Walk On The Heath is not only the result of Feldman's compositions, it is a tribute to the care taken in performance and to good taste. A beautiful ballad line is supported by interesting, indeed distinctive, chord changes; the whole effort tied together by nimble-fingered Feldman.


When Isn't She Lovely leaps out at you a quick question might be "who is SHE?" to deserve such expansive keyboard praise. Domanico suggests some bright bass moments early-on, then gets a whole chorus to himself. This tune is a reminder of what makes the real pros a different sort of musician than the pretenders  — they choose numbers that they know have the ingredients for elegant interpretation. Rich chords, interesting melodic lines, rhythms that allow for variations.


Artful Dodger, like Agitation, is a Feldman tour de force special. Not just for him, of course, but for the trio. The stop-start rhythms, Feldman's unison lines (both hands), Domanico's gradual involvement with the melodic theme, Bailey's impeccable tight drumming and cymbal work — and, finally, Feldman's remarkable chorus. New themes come and go, block chording gives way to lightning-like zig-zags of right hand. Quite a number.


Moving to the electric piano, Feldman creates something fresh and fascinating out of the 44 year old standard, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. For the first half this is a piano-bass duet (it seems) held carefully together by Bailey's brush work on the snare drum. Then a delicate bossa-nova beat moves in, some minor-key variations introduce more Latin feelings and the trio is off on a new adventure. It ends, rather too shortly, with a return to the smokey theme.

St. Thomas has such a strong basic theme that a solo piano introductory statement is all that's needed before the trio's fun begins. Feldman has a ball on this one, keeping the theme through rhythm, then giving Domanico his chance. The accompaniment given Domanico by Feldman's piano punctuations and Bailey's rattling drums is superb.


There are two versions, quite different, of Haunted Ballroom. The first one is a swinging instrumental interpretation and the Haunted Ballroom performance which concludes the recording features Jack Sheldon on vocal and trumpet, Monty Budwig on bass, Feldman on Fender-Rhodes and Bailey.


Sheldon, long a trumpeter, vocalist and comic on the LA scene (especially on TV in recent years) adds just the right touch of humor to the proceedings and puts over the clever lyrics with ease and aplomb.


Milo Adamo's inside lyric references to Caravan/Music Maestro, Please, In The Mood, and many others are as neatly dispatched as Sheldon's marvelous tribute to "Satchmo" Armstrong.


At the end of this concluding Haunted Ballroom the sound gets eerie and in the background we hear a drummer featured on I Got Rhythm with a nostalgic-sounding big band.


The drummer is Victor Feldman, back in 1944 when he was known in England as "Kid Krupa," Feldman, then ten years old, was the featured soloist on that hoary old recording with Major Glenn Miller and the Army Air Force Band.


Who says that ballroom isn't haunted?”


Philip Elwood
San Francisco Examiner


The following video features the title track from The Artful Dodger.




Also from The Artful Dodger is the soundtrack to the following video tribute to drummer Colin Bailey which features him on Victor’s original - Agitation.



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Maynard Ferguson - A JazzProfiles Snapshot

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“It has often been the good fortune of a Jazz musicians - or the misfortune, depending upon which way you look at it - to flash like a comet into the musical sky with a startling distinct and original style. The advantage of this kind of arrival, obviously, is that it makes an immediate name for the artist, establishing for him enough prestige and firm identification to last him for years. The handicap, however, is less immediately evident; it tends to “type-cast” the musician and thus, in effect, circumscribes the area of his activities by providing the public with a preconceived notion of what to expect from him at all times.


This is the way it went with Maynard Ferguson. Only twenty years old when he hit the American Jazz scene in 1948 as a sideman with Boyd Raeburn and Jimmy Dorsey (he had previously led his own band in Canada), Ferguson enjoyed such immediate and tremendous impact through his records with Charlie Barnet and Stan Kenton during the following couple of years, that his fantastic technique and amazing ability to reach into the stratosphere register of the trumpet tended to obscure every other aspect of his work.


Fortunately, during the last year or two since he began recording for Emarcy, Maynard has been better able to express his musical aims and reveal himself not merely as a flashy showman but as a fine all-around musician with sound, solid ideas of the kind of band he should have around him.”
- Un-ascribed liner notes to the Emarcy LP Around the Horn with Maynard Ferguson


The idea for this snapshot came from the video playlist that you will find at the end of this piece.


The playlist is made up of four tracks from two of my favorite Maynard Ferguson big band LP’s on Roulette Records: A Message from Newport and A Message from Birdland.


These recordings played an important role in my life because the drumming on them by Jake Hanna and Frankie Dunlop, respectively, served as a model for the way I wanted to play in a big band.


I was fortunate to have frequent access to big band drummer par excellence Mel Lewis before he moved to New York to join Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band and then on to form his own big band with Thad Jones. I saw Mel perform many times with Terry Gibbs’ big band, as well as, with big bands led by Bill Holman and Gerald Wilson.


But Mel’s rub-a-dub, bouncy style of big band drumming was not for me. I wanted to hit harder; enters Messrs Hanna and Dunlop.


I think there’s more than a bit of irony to beginning this Maynard Ferguson snapshot with a short piece by Gene Lees, one of many which he wrote for a book of photographs by John Reeves that he co-authored entitled - Jazz Lives: 100 Portraits in Jazz.


But you can’t go wrong with anything on the subject of Jazz as written by Gene.
Aside from anything to do with Jazz in general, I think that the topics that Gene loved writing most about were the intricacies of composing lyrics and those fellow Canadians [Canadiens] who had made it big in the world of Jazz.


Nobody made it bigger in the world of Jazz than did Walter Maynard Ferguson.




MAYNARD FERGUSON
  • Gene Lees


“Maynard Ferguson [1928 - 2006] was born in the Montreal suburb of Verdun, only blocks from Oscar Peterson's birthplace. Maynard's and Oscar's lives converged when they attended Montreal High School and played in a band led by Maynard's brother, Percy.


One of Maynard's assignments at Montreal High was to play trumpet during the morning flag-raising, even in winter. Maynard would stand there in the bitter cold playing his horn while Oscar watched from the warmth of the building, laughing maniacally.


Maynard used to practice along with the records of Harry James, famous, among other things, for his high notes. Maynard would equal them and then go higher. Soon, leading his own band, he was astounding visiting musicians with his unprecedented upper register — not just squeals and squeaks, but controlled tones up to a double high C.


He played in the big bands of Boyd Raeburn and Charlie Barnet in the late 1940s. One musician who heard him was Pete Rugolo, then with Stan Kenton's band. Kenton hired Maynard in 1950. Shorty Rogers, who was in the trumpet section of the band and wrote pieces for Kenton that featured Maynard, said, "I couldn't believe I was writing notes that high for the trumpet."


Maynard formed his own thirteen-piece Dream Band, and has led his own groups — from combos to a sixteen-piece group made up entirely of British musicians — since the mid-1950s.


He has lived in England and India (where he went to meditate) and the United States. We used to see each other in nightclubs and at festivals. Now he lives just down the street from me in the little mountain town of Ojai, California, and I run into him and his wife Flo at the supermarket.


Maynard plays all the brass instruments. He has been known to play trumpet, valve trombone, French horn, and euphonium during a single performance. As for his high register on trumpet, he equates it with the once unattainable four-minute mile and says with a laugh, "Now I've got two or three kids in my band who can play that high."”


Here are some excerpts from my earlier posting - Maynard My Way: Parts 1 and 2 - that specifically focused on the two Roulette big band recordings: A Message from Newport and A Message from Birdland.


I first encountered the band through its blistering and blazing 1958 Roulette LP – A Message from Newport – and then worked my way back to the earlier Vik/RCA recordings. After I heard this recording for the first time, it took a few hours to catch my breath and regain my composure from all of the excitement it generated in me.


The music on this LP is spine-tinglingly full of thrills and excitement. If you like upper register, unison trumpet section work with vibrato shakes, trills and squeals, then you need look no further than this album. Maynard’s high note playing, aided and abetted by the other trumpeters and arrangements that serve to launch him into the stratosphere, has never sounded more scintillating, let alone more musical.
Or as Down Beat [10/1/1959] reported:


“The band’s strengths included its raw, almost primitive power of ensemble when it roars; the always impressive use of dynamics; Maynard’s brilliant horn work; the writing by members of the band; and a feeling that Maynard can best describe only as ‘esprit de corps.’


“About the only adverse comment steadily made by the Ferguson band is that it opened like a jackhammer and belted, without letup, through the remainder of the set. Yet Maynard’s band is built on excitement, on the exhilarating sound of the trumpet, on the ability of the band to rocket through furious tempos, and on the ensemble’s ability to build to a crescendo like a juggernaut rolling downhill.”
The full roster for the electrifying band on this highly recommended LP included:


Trumpets: Maynard [and valve trombone], Bill Chase, Clyde Reasinger, Tom Slaney
Trombones: Don Sebesky, Slide Hampton
Alto Sax: Jimmy Ford
Tenor Saxes: Carmen Leggio, Willie Maiden
Baritone Saxes: Jay Cameron
Piano: John Bunch; Bass: Jimmy Rowser; Drums: Jake Hanna


With the exception of the opening track, And We Listened, which was composed and arranged by Bob Friedman, who was an instructor at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, the album is a showcase for the new arranging troika of Hampton, Maiden and Sebesky.




Dom Cerulli was the Associate Editor of Down Beat when he concluded his liner notes to the album with this assessment of Maynard at this point in his career:


“Somehow, through personnel changes and depression times for big bands, Maynard has managed to keep his band together and working [this would continue as a prophetic statement for almost 60 years from this writing!].


He is an enthusiastic, hard-working band leader on-stage and off. He has retained that technical mastery of his horn which made him famous ,but has added to it nearly a decade of experience, growth and ability as a jazz man. He can now move audiences by what he plays as well as how he plays.”


For me, A Message from Birdland is Maynard Ferguson and his ‘smaller’ [2 less trombones; one less saxophone] big band at its best. Bret Primack’s construct of a night at the club in which to frame a review of the album is a wonderful blending of both fiction and music criticism so rather than compete with it I thought perhaps it would be wiser to just serve up the best “as is.”


“Descending the stairs to the jammed basement nitery, Ferguson acknowledges the greetings of the racially mixed throng, primed for an evening of high‑octane musical invigoration. At the first level down, patrons queue up before a tiny cage purchasing tickets for entry.


Down another flight and Maynard comes waist to face with Pee Wee Marquette, a uniformed midget who doubles as Maitre d' and MC.


"Maynard the Fox, Maynard the Fox," the manikin shrieks, his stentorian falsetto audible all the way to Brooklyn.


"Hello Pee Wee." Recoiling, Ferguson reaches for his wallet and scans the bar. Having played Birdland for six­teen weeks out of the last fifty‑two, Ferguson is no stranger to Pee Wee's shtick. In a pint‑sized act of extortion, Mr. Marquette, dubbed half a motherfucker by Lester Young, requires each performing musician to fork over a monetary taste. The penalty for disobedience is sobering: an elbow to the testicles if Pee Wee is working the door, and even worse, mispronunciation of one's name from the bandstand.


Everyone who plays Birdland knows there is nothing worse than a microphone in the hands of this mad dwarf juiced out of his nut. Accordingly, Pee Wee once announced Ferguson's former ensemble, called the Birdland Dream Band, as the Birdland Bird Band.


"Now baba, you know what Gene Krupa laid on me. Buddy Rich too."


From the bar, the sardonically elegant percussionist Philly Joe Jones, no stranger to scams, flashes Maynard his trademark toothy grin. As with most musicians who have graced Birdland's notorious stage, Philly Joe is a frequent guest at the dark, smoky boite de nuit. Earlier in the week, he sat in, taking the drum kit from Frankie Dunlop and swinging the Ferguson orchestra madly.


Remembering that Stan Kenton's orchestra works Birdland frequently, Ferguson asks Pee Wee, "How much did Stan give you?"


Entering the jazz consciousness as part of Kenton's Innovations Orchestra, Ferguson understands Stan's revulsion for the small‑time chiselers and tawdry hustlers who inhabit the Jazz business, but Pee Wee's antics are chump change compared to the fiendish agents, callous club owners, tone deaf producers, egotistical critics, and miscellaneous leeches jazz musicians habitually encounter.


Pee Wee's parasitic supplications are stalled by the tumultuous arrival of an obese cannonball, bolting down the stairs as if the sky is falling. Producer Teddy Reig has arrived, to shepherd tonight's performance onto a long playing record. Ferguson glances at his watch and concludes that Ramsey Lewis has five minutes until break time. Is it possible for Reig, an insatiable gourmand, to consume his customary Birdland burger deluxe before Ferguson's first set begins? Soon Reig journeys backstage, a Titanic passenger in search of a lifeboat. Astonishingly, his hefty presence causes barely a ripple in this cabaret, where picturesque oddballs are the bill de faire.


Attentive to the music, the table crowd eats and drinks heartily, a mix of devotees, tourists, celebrities and assorted denizens of the wee small hours. Like Ava Gardner, Sammy Davis, Jr. and his blond Swedish wife, some ambassador, or perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Nine‑to‑Five, out for a night on the town that won't cost their first male born.


Riding the final crest of the bebop wave, Birdland is the hang, a musical oasis for accomplished improvisers where the finest jazz on planet Earth is presented with a minimum of pretense. The club's let‑it‑all‑hang‑out ambiance encourages musicians to stretch the boundaries with spirited audience encouragement. Live radio broadcasts from the club, hosted by Symphony Sid, compound the excitement. Who can forget the night eighteen‑year‑old Lee Morgan', crackling trumpet break with Dizzy's big band on A NIGHT IN TUNISIA left the audience thunderstruck. Or the final reunion of Bird, Dizzy and Bud Powell just a few months ­before Parker's untimely demise. Not surprisingly. the cats have been coming down to check out the band all week. To Maynard's left, at the bar, Tadd Dameron is hanging with Philly Joe, not far from Georgie Auld and Terry Gibbs. Miles came by last night and stayed for two sets, noting new pianist's Joe Zawinul's chops and Slide Hampton’s perspicacious arrangements.


In front of the bar, several rows of bleacher‑style benches house underage patrons and anyone wishing to luxuriate in Birdland's liberal admission policy. The inhabitants of the ­bullpen, or peanut gallery, pay only the admission fee, and then stay the night sans further disbursement.


As Maynard walks through the club, instant recognition – his career is ascending.

In this year's Down Beat reader's poll, he occupies the third trumpet position behind Dizzy and Miles. And in the big band category, the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra, only on the boards for two years, is right up there with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Stan Kenton and Woody Herman. Maynard’s high wire upper register trumpet act, which he works without a net, never falls to wow an audience.



Respect for the musicians in this subterranean taberna­cle runs from high to hero worship, still some noisemakers ­produce a cacophonic murmur, thankfully overshadowed by the paid proceedings. One table of these regular, includes a group of Hebraic racketeers, fixated on horses and mathematical speculation. Their reputed financial interest in Birdland has spawned rumors that mob money governs owner Morris Levy. But Levy, a one‑man business cash machine who also owns Roulette Records, files his own marching orders.


Nevertheless, conjecture abounds regarding the murder ­of Birdland bouncer Irving Levy, Morris's brother. Last January, the younger Levy tried to hush an addled patron, who promptly pulled out a pistol and shot him. The thug thought his honor had been impugned when Irving seemed to cast a wary eye on his wife, a part time prostitute. Fortunately, the ill‑starred episode had little or no impact on Birdland itself.


To the right of the stage, through a pair of swinging doors, Maynard is greeted by Birdland manager Oscar Goodstein. Sitting at a cash register inspecting the night’s take, Goodstein smiles, but is obviously engrossed in matters of greater import. Reportedly a minority partner in the ­club, Goodstein is a former attorney who venerates celebrities. Each night, before the music begins, he dines with his wife and two young daughters at the club.

Along with Birdland kingpin Morris Levy, he genuinely enjoys jazz. But unlike Levy, whose persona is that of a Brooklyn street fighter, Goodstein conducts business with a pretense of nicety. Goodstein can also be generous, some­times lending money to musicians and letting them pay as they play, up to a certain dollar amount. But it takes a tight‑fisted taskmaster to run a successful Jazz carnival so to most musicians, Oscar Goodstein is but another in a long line of irksome club owners.


Meticulously eluding the tangle of microphone wires leading to a temporary engineering outpost set up to docu­ment the evening's festivities, Maynard greets a uniformed man working the service bar, and then stumbles upon his orchestra. Only numbering twelve, they are nevertheless too many for the dressing room so the group is scattered about the backstage area. Some use the time to woodshed. Ramsey Lewis is playing TICK TACK, his first set closer, but away from the stage, muted brass players disturb no one. Trumpeter Don Ellis uses every waking moment practicing scales. Clyde Reasinger, new to the lead trumpet book, is working on his upper register, although his previous attempts to mimic Maynard's supernatural reach have proved futile.


Willie Maiden, with earphone and portable radio, chain smokes while monitoring the progress of his beloved Yankees. Although in a pensive moment, he will admit to certain fascination with the first place standing of the newly relocated Los Angeles Dodgers. He is, after all, a baseball fan.


Hunched in a corner, Slide Hampton, trombone on lap, sketches out the lead trombone part for an arrangement based on the works of Chopin he's titled MY MAN CHOPIN. Bassist Jimmy Rowser sits nearby, bemused by Hampton's ability to work without a score.


Regal in red sport coats, band members receive Ferguson enthusiastically, their
relationship obviously not mired in the prototypical leader/sideman groove. 

Although most are in their twenties, the musicians have backgrounds as diverse as Vienna, Detroit and Houston, but are united by an enduring devotion to the music. The baleful working conditions ‑ ungodly hours, austere travel and sub‑average remuneration ‑ are quickly forgotten once the music begins; the experience of playing in a blazing big band akin to a prolonged orgasm with the hottest chick in town.


At the sound of sustained applause and Pee Wee's intro­duction of Lewis's trio, the orchestra wanders through the swinging doors and onto the bandstand. While juggling his alto and tenor saxophones, Carmine Leggio acknowledges to baritone saxophonist John Lanni that tonight is indeed, “my last gig with the band." The Westchester‑based sax‑man looks to go with Woody's band in a few weeks.


The Birdland gig is also trombonist/arranger Don Sebesky’s swan song. The Kenton band awaits although Sebesky will regularly contribute charts to the Ferguson’s book. It's not often that an up‑and‑coming arranger has the opportunity to ply his craft without creative limitations.


As the band takes the stage, Ferguson gingerly places his mammoth silver Conn Constellation trumpet onto the bar while drinking a glass of water. His valve trombone and baritone horn are already in place on the bandstand. The debonair, nattily attired thirty‑one‑year‑old has been blow­ing audiences away for the past seventeen years, yet he never falls to feel the anticipation just before he plays. Thanks to the band's bustling schedule, he has avoided the daily practice regimen the trumpet mandates. Clutching his horn, he blows some air through to push out the saliva.


With Willie Maiden's downbeat, the band breaks into BLUE BIRDLAND, the Jimmy Giuffre composition that serves as Maynard's theme. After the first few bars. Pee Wee grabs the microphone. "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a real ­treat in store for you tonight here at Birdland. a man who plays a lot of trumpet. That's right, the young man with the horn, the only and one, everybody put your hands together for Maynard Ferguson and his Birdland Dream Band. Maynard the Fox! Maynard the Fox!" As Ferguson walks on, his trumpet screams the out chorus of the chorus an octave above the trumpet section. The audience is mesmerized, Maynard's upper register, a dazzling gift from God.


Only trumpet players comprehend the monumental obstacles Ferguson conquers every time he soars into the stratosphere. The heart of the difficulty lies in the physical properties of the instrument itself. A musically sound upper register requires superhuman strength and coordination. Lips must vibrate expeditiously, a reservoir of air must be routed through the horn unremittingly, and the placement of the lips on the mouthpiece must be precise.


The theme ends to excited applause with the audience eager for the impending fireworks. Not missing a beat, Ferguson announces “This is OLEO,” and Joe Zawinul’s fleet piano initiates the Sonny Rollins composition. A version of the song performed at Birdland earlier in the year, when the Ferguson orchestra played opposite the Miles Davis Sextet, featuring Cannonball and Coltrane, inspired Slide Hampton to fashion this perfectly crafted, seamless tapes­try of harmony, texture and melody.


The visceral potency and brute strength of the orchestra are indelible. In front of the trumpets, saxophonist Carmen Leggio feels as if a vibrating power plant is ripping through him. Along with the orchestra itself, the audience is devoured by Frankie Dunlop's steamroller percussion. Dunlop not only swings the band hard, but adds enthusias­tic, richly‑shaded accents and flourishes. The brass plays so loud that Dunlop practically drives his foot into the bass drum, socking the rhythms out in perfect synchronization with the brass section, topped by Ferguson's penetrating trumpet. The effect is staggering.


Because of Birdland’s low ceiling, the sound is tighter, more compact, more intimate than any other club. With no echo, no real ambiance to the sound, the impact is immedi­ate. The band's power nails patrons to their seats.


Slide Hampton plays a trombone solo and quickly demonstrates that his improvisational prowess is on a par with his arranging facility. He's followed by twenty‑five­ year‑old Jerry Tyree, who played with Hampton back in Indianapolis along with the Montgomery Brothers, and his jazz solos seem to improve by the set.


A recent Jazz For Moderns tour included the Ferguson orchestra, Dave Brubeck's quartet and Sonny Rollins's trio. Rather than ride the band bus, Tyree chauffeured Rollins's newly acquired Cadillac so that the leviathan tenor man could practice while traveling. Obviously motivated from listening to Rollins's exercises, Tyree began wood-shedding exuberantly shortly thereafter.


In keeping with the orchestra's family ambiance, Hampton's Brooklyn brownstone houses not only his own kin and saxophonists Charles Davis and Eric Dolphy, but also band members Tyree and Josef Zawinul. The Maynard Ferguson Orchestra is Austrian Zawinul's first American gig and his comping and solos have made an immediate impression. Although he was a hero in his native Vienna, Zawinul was compelled nevertheless to assure Ferguson that he could "sving my ass off" when he auditioned for the band. Zawinul's roots, deep in Tatum and Powell, along with his rousing facility, mark him as a serious prospect.


Jimmy Ford takes the next solo, a passionate cry of existence. His searing alto saxophone rides above the band, a whirlwind of emotional intensity. Then Ferguson steps to bat and drives it all home, soaring to a lusty cli­max. With Dunlop’s propulsion, a truly thermonuclear dynamic, the band is wound tight, ready to explode.


On the heels Of OLEO'S balls‑to‑the‑wall climax, a wel­come bit of balladry appears with Benny Golson's STARFIRE. On display here, the orchestra's more soothing side, as delineated by Ferguson's middle register. The quest for provocative arrangements has led Ferguson to saxophon­ist/composer Benny Golson. The former Jazz Messenger has a distinctive touch, and his ballads never fail to glisten like jewels in the moonlight.


Just as the audience regains composure. Ferguson introduces THE MARK OF JAZZ, another Slide Hampton incendiary device. Named for the Philadelphia DJ Sid Mark, one of the band’s most vocal supporters, the tune is an unstop­pable juggernaut. Jimmy Ford's Incandescent alto swiftly builds the intensity. Composer/arranger Hampton’s trom­bone adds fuel to the fire, along with Ferguson's towering trumpet, Bowser's ambulating bass and Dunlop's kinetic percussion.


The emotional fervor surrounding performances by the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra is built on electrifying solos, Dunlop's propulsive percussion and sharply etched section work. The band's breakneck tempos and intricate arrange­ments mandate symbiotic instrumental blending in each ensemble passage. Accordingly, every instrumental grouping within the orchestra is a living, breathing, entity. When the brass section plays, they attack notes together with measured impact, ending notes in unison, precisely. This is the essence of the music, its fountainhead. What makes it more than just some musicians reading charts. They don't just play the notes, they play music, utilizing good sound, dynamics and intonation. The difference is immediately palatable.


TO cool things down, Ferguson calls for another Benny Golson original, NIGHT LIFE, a medium tempo minor blues which features Hampton, Tyree and Zawinul once again. This tune is actually FIVE SPOT AFTER DARK named after the ­great Greenwich Village club. On a live Birdland session for Roulette Records, that title would never fly. Philadelphian Golson is best known for his work with Art Blakey’s inde­structible quintet, and the composition has the feel that is one of the Ferguson orchestra's hallmark,.


For dramatic effect, the Victor Young standard STELLA BY STARLIGHT, is unrivaled. Inspired by the grand‑scale arrangements that Bill Holman and Bill Russo created for the the Kenton orchestra, Slide Hampton's chart is guaranteed to convert the most fervent big band skeptic. With shifting tempos and double‑barreled solos by Hampton, Ford, Ferguson and Dunlop, the chart climaxes in frenetic riffs followed by long pauses, the last six notes spanning five octaves. Lest patrons risk over‑ excitement, the management retains a tank of oxygen near the bandstand. A licensed physician is also on call.


The ensuing ballad, LONELY TIME, is a moving feature for the emotive tenor saxophone of Willie Maiden. West Coast arranger Marty Paich, who has contributed several charts to the band's book, has a way of using dynamics to bring out the more pastel shades of the band's personality. The backbone of the orchestra, Maiden's tenor echoes the liquid emotion of Lester Young, another effective contrast to the more demonstrative aspects of the Ferguson experience. This composition was known as VELVET in the Birdland Dream Band book.


But Maiden’s original BACK IN THE SATELLITE AGAIN quickly relaunches the band. At under three minutes, this breath-taking vehicle for the breakneck solos of Ford, Ferguson and Dunlop, mirrors the space race the dominates the headlines. With the cold war in a lock, public enemy number one, Nikita Khrushchev has challenged American technological superiority by launching the first man‑made satellite, much to the dismay of America's rocket scientists, but it is a matter of public record that there is no Russian equivalent of the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra.


Willie Maiden’s second original of the evening is THREE MORE FOXES, a trumpet joust for Jerry Tyree, Don Ellis and Maynard. Cutting contests have long been a staple of jazz performances, but this arrangement is more of a spring­-board for individual capabilities than instrumental rivalry. Although Ferguson is the principal soloist, leader and architect of the orchestra, he is intent on using the band as showcase for individual talent. Recognizing his particu­lar trumpet niche, he is not threatened when other trumpeters solo and impress the audience with their acumen, as is the case with the foxes Tyree and Ellis.


The closer, SEA ISLE STOMP, is a Don Sebesky original written for a favorite performance venue on the Jersey shore. Twenty‑year‑old Sebesky takes the first solo, fol­lowed by the impassioned tenor of Carmen Leggio. With tonight his concluding engagement, and in mourning over the recent death of best friend, Holmes Junebug Lindsay, Leggio's solos have an extra bite, catalyzed by the emotional turmoil that envelops him.


Finally. the band strikes up BLUE BIRDLAND and Pee Wee offers his concluding pronouncements, fueled by demon rum and a fat money clip. With the clock set to strike four, the few dozen remaining listeners contemplate climbing the stairs for a pre‑dawn rendezvous with reality.


In conclusion, Maynard picks up his horn and hangs over double high C, a source of bemusement for trumpeter Jerry Tyree, who tells section mate Don Ellis, "that mother­fucker is poppin' off those high notes like we're just getting started.”


After the final chord, the band packs up to more enthu­siastic applause. The Maynard Ferguson Orchestra goes back on the road this weekend, for a couple of college dance dates hundreds of miles apart, then more clubs, con­certs and other postal zones along their perpetual caravan.


A dazed but satiated audience slowly files out. Some even express the inclination for another set, if Ferguson's chops can stand it. Back on the street, they linger in front of the club, basking in the afterglow of the performance. The sun will arrive soon, but most in attendance are too up to sleep. Maynard's music the antithesis of a lullaby. And so they scatter to coffee shops, after hours clubs and long rides home.


Yet Birdland is not long for Broadway. Within four years, audiences will dwindle to the point of invisibility. In fact, jazz will just about disappear from midtown Manhattan altogether. The coming invasion of youthful musical superfluity, spearheaded by Chubby Checker and a bundle of bands from Britain, will focus the music industry on other, more lucrative forms of expression. Outside the mass market ­area, jazz will be relegated to highbrow status, like its classical cousin. Birdland's next incarnation will be the short-lived Lloyd Price's Turntable. In a twist of fate, Slide Hampton will become Lloyd Price’s musical director and lead Price’s band at the club. Not long after the Turntable takes its final spin, the site will be occupied by a succession of discotheques and girly bars.


In 1977, the club will be gussied up for a farewell flutter in celebration of a newly-released live Birdland recording on the Columbia label involving Charlie Parker. The night survivors will reconvene to recall a time and place where the joy of creation and the ardor of camaraderie had not yet been pulverized by ego and the almighty dollar.


Today, jazz clubs in midtown Manhattan are as extant as bread in a Chinese restaurant. 52nd Street is skyscrapered, save the 21 Club. The buildings on Broadway remain, with new tenants. Ed Sullivan passed away long ago and his theater now houses David Letterman’s TV Show. Aping Steve Allen, Letterman likes to focus a street camera on Broadway’s most bizarre attractions, notably a strip joint called Flashdancers.


The [Birdland] striped canopy that once stood there is no more. In keeping with our present predicament, a walk down the hallowed stairway today leads only to pleasures of the flesh. However, the music played by the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra on that fateful June night in 1959 survives!”


- Bret Primack, June 1992


Maynard eventually issued 14 albums during his approximately six year stint with Roulette Records between 1958-1964, although the actual recording that was underwritten by the label would end in March, 1962.


During this period, a host of excellent players would replace or join with the original members of the 12-piece band including Chet Ferretti, Rick Keifer, and Rolf Ericsson, Bill Berry, Dusko Goykovich, and Don Rader [tp], Bill Byers, Ray Winslow, Kenny Rupp [tb], Lanny Morgan, Don Menza, Joe Farrell, Ronnie Cuber, Frank Hittner [saxes, Mike Abene, Jaki Byard [p], Gene Cherico, John Neeves, Linc Millman [b], Stu Martin, Rufus Jones [d].


The arrangers adding charts to the book was broadened to include Mike Abene, Jaki Byard, Benny Golson, Tom McIntosh, Don Menza, Bill Mathieu, and Don Rader.

Is it any wonder that I miss Maynard? In full flight, he was something else and all of his bands played with brio; together they were en fuego. 

Fuego Ferguson, indeed.