Maynard Ferguson was probably the greatest trumpet player to ever live. He was also one of the remaining ties to the "Big Band Era," having gotten his start with Stan Kenton.
I believe that I saw him in concert just one time but the funny thing is that I'd been watching his tour schedule for the past year or so, hoping to maybe have the opportunity to see him again sometime. That will never happen.
To truly appreciate his genius, you almost had to play trumpet yourself. The things he could do so effortlessly -- acrobatics I called them -- were pretty much impossibilities to most of us. I had one friend in high school who showed promise of being able to play like that and I was disappointed to learn a couple of years ago that he doesn't play much anymore.
Maynard was marked not only by his talent for the instrument but also for his love of people and friendliness, his commitment to music education, and his commitment to continuing the legacy of big bands but yet also pushing forward, becoming more edgy with his music all the time. Often when he toured, he would hold music clinics for students and virtually always after his concerts, often drenched in sweat, he would take plenty of time for photos and autographs with his fans. Whatever our individual area of talent and giftedness, we should all strive to give back the way that he did.
Memories of Maynard bring back a flood of memories of my high school years. I really really wanted to be able to play like him but it was never in the cards. I was occasionally able to hit a soprano high C but "The Boss" as Ferguson was known was routinely squealing around at an octave above that! Absolutely phenomenal and virtually unheard of until he hit the music scene.
This brings back memories of the kids I was in band with. Also of the really good trumpet players I knew back then -- Dan Baker, Matt Baker, Ron Brooks, David Edler, Rick aka "Pudge" Monnin (the acrobat I referenced earlier), and others. Wow. We all wanted to be able to play like Ferguson.
I also remember Don Sprague, the guy that I and some of the others took private lessons from. Don came out of the Big Band era and, though he wouldn't talk about it much, he played with a lot of the famous bands including, as I recall, Glenn Miller and Stan Kenton. Don wasn't so much an acrobat but he had incredible tone and tyechnical finesse. He taught me the importance of practice and warm-up exercises.
Wow. Maynard will be missed. An incredible trumpet player and an incredible man.