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On a High Note: The Best of the Concord Jazz Recordings

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Album Review

Trumpeter Maynard Ferguson's move to Concord Records in the mid-'90s was a return to form for the iconic high-note jazz musician. Having scored his biggest success in the '70s with the jazz-funk of "The Theme from 'Rocky'," Ferguson had achieved a level of fame, money and legend few of his contemporaries would match. However, by the '80s the public's changing taste in music and even Ferguson's own glitzy, over-the-top aesthetic led to a bit of a backlash against him. Often labeled a pop sell-out, Ferguson had become a victim of his own success. It didn't help either that he chose to tour incessantly, anywhere and everywhere he could, more often than not appearing at local high school auditoriums. This business model, while endearing him to countless adolescent marching and concert bandmembers, nonetheless found him garnering an ever lowering profile with the jazz buying pubic. So, it was with little fanfare that jazz fans, who had long forgotten Ferguson's awesome performances with Stan Kenton's orchestra in the '50s, received the news that the Titan of the trumpet had signed with Concord Records. That all changed in 1994 with the release of These Cats Can Swing. The first recording of Ferguson with his newly minted, straight-ahead modern jazz ensemble Big Bop Nouveau, These Cats Can Swing found Ferguson surrounded by a stellar big band of young musicians playing laser-tight arrangements of such jazz standards as "Sugar'" and "Caravan." This was the Ferguson of old before the "Rocky" wah wah guitars and polyester got the better of him. Here was the storied Ferguson of the Kenton band who could move from a razor-cut lead trumpet line to a blistering bebop solo at will. This was Maynard Ferguson trumpet master supreme. And this is the Maynard Ferguson showcased on On a High Note: The Best of the Concord Jazz Recordings. Culled from the handful of albums he recorded with Big Bop Nouveau up through 2001 on Concord, these are some of the last great recordings Ferguson made before his death in 2006.


Born: 04 May 1928 in Verdun, Quebec, Canada

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

When he debuted with Stan Kenton's Orchestra in 1950, Maynard Ferguson could play higher than any other trumpeter up to that point in jazz history, and he was accurate. Somehow he kept most of that range through his career and since the 1970s has been one of the most famous musicians in jazz. Never known for his exquisite taste (some of his more commercial efforts are unlistenable), Ferguson nevertheless led some important bands and definitely made an impact with his trumpet playing. After heading...
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On a High Note: The Best of the Concord Jazz Recordings, Maynard Ferguson
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