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Album Review

Although trumpeter Maynard Ferguson's mid- to late-'70s catalog was commercially viable, it also reflected the overindulgence that, in essence, defined the decade. By 1974, Ferguson had already become one of the most established figures in contemporary jazz. After performing with Stan Kenton & His Orchestra in 1950, he became a prolific recording artist. Unlike many jazz players, Ferguson maintained his chops, arguably gaining incremental momentum for his trademark high-range blasting, which is evident throughout this LP. Stylistically, Chameleon (1974) is all over the place. The supporting combo — which includes future Frank Zappa keyboardist Allan Zavod — provide tastefully executed backing arrangements. Unfortunately, in many cases they are sonically voided by Ferguson's over the top wailing, the most flagrant example being the reworking of "The Way We Were," which features the trumpeter barreling through with the same gusto and attack that he brings to the hard-hitting cover of Stevie Wonder's "Livin' for the City" or the funkified rendering of the Herbie Hancock composition that gives this long-player its name. "Brother John" is notable for Ferguson's gospel-flavored introduction as well as the soulful support of the ensemble once the platter reaches cruising velocity. Less impressive is the brass assault that accompanies Paul McCartney's "Jet." However, the album concludes with the bop-oriented "Superbone Meets the Bad Man." This is one of the unmitigated highlights as the players embrace their jazz roots and discard the "hip" pretensions governing most of the material. In fact, the brief duet between Ferguson and Bruce Johnstone (baritone sax) makes the rest of the disc seem practically irrelevant. The 2003 CD reissue contains remastered sound as well as an extended essay within the 12-page liner booklet.

Customer Reviews

30 years ago seems like yesterday...

For as far back as I can remember I wanted to play the trumpet. I got my chance in 4th grade, and in 6th grade I had the opportunity to play for John "Doc" Anello in a jazz ensemble comprised of kids at Wagner School in Placentia who played charts we didn't realize were too advanced for us. My cousin invited me to see Maynard Ferguson live, and that night I began my lifelong fanship of Maynard, his music, and his legacy. Chameleon had just been released on LP, and after the concert I received it as a Christmas present. Played it 'til it practically wore through. Fast forward to El Dorado High School, where director and percussionist extraordinaire Rich Watson encouraged us to see as many artists as we could. To that end he provided passes for us to get into the Disneyland back before they started charging an arm and a leg to get in. The hottest act to see was Maynard at the Carnation Plaza Gardens. The place was packed as tunes such as "Chameleon" and "Superbone Meets the Badman" screamed down Main Street. And who could forget his "nightly assassination attempt of 'Hey Jude'?" 40-somethings like me, along with today's young, screaming trumpeters, will LOVE this album. Make some time to listen, read the liner notes, and learn about Maynard's commitment to music education. You will never regret it.


Chameleon has got to be one of Maynard's best. I knew this song because we always play this song in Jazz band, and we improvise off it all the time. It's almost like our band's theme song that we memorized. If I were to suggest to get any of Maynards songs, it would be MacArthur Park, Birdland, Gospel John, Gonna Fly Now, and Chameleon.


When I first heard the peice chameleon, it was in high school band practice. When my dad heard me practicing, he showed me this album. I listen to it nearly every day now. It's a true work of art.


Born: May 4, 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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Chameleon, Maynard Ferguson
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