Maynard Ferguson’s reissues prove he could blow up a “Storm”

By Matt Micucci

Ferguson’s albums “Storm” (1982) and “Live from San Francisco” (1984) to be re-issued on Omnivore Recordings on December 18, 2015.

Maynard Ferguson was born in a family of musicians and encouraged to start playing music as a child. He started off on the violin, but his “weapon of choice” became to trumpet, with which he started off his professional career, along with playing other brass, in such big bands as Stan Kenton’s and Jimmy Dorset’s.

In 1953, he had become so revered that he decided to record under his own name, and kept releasing records and performing until his death in 2006.

The career that was to follow was quite exciting. Aside from releasing many great jazz records, he also appeared in many film soundtracks, such as the one for The Ten Commandments, directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Charlton Heston, in 1956. When he moved to England in the sixties, he became a regular fixture on BBC’s Simon Dee Show. He also scored a number of pop hits and played at the closing ceremony at Montreal’s 1976 Olympic Games.

His live performances were also highly regarded and attended by some big names, including Miles Davis.

Towards the end of the seventies and the eighties, Ferguson had been flirting with a more commercial sound, but in 1982, he returned to his interests in jazz and fusion with a string of records and live performances. It is his two of these pivotal eighties albums by Maynard that will be reissued on Omnivore Recordings on December 18, 2015 – Storm and Live from San Francisco.

Storm features Ferguson’s band playing standards like Ellington’s Take the ‘A’ Train and even a take on the Sesame Street theme. It also saw the group branch out with originals like Go With the Flo and Hit in the Head. Listeners even got more than Ferguson’s brass with his vocal on the classic As Time Goes By.

It brought him back to the faithful, and when the band was hottest, they played a show at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall. Out of print for decades, 1984’s Live From San Francisco returns, with stunning originals like Fireshaker, Ganesha, and Coconut Champagne. But the past wasn’t forgotten in this performance: there’s a 13-minute tribute to Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Thelonious Monk — Bebop Buffet — and a vocal duet with band member Denis DiBlasio (who currently supervises the Maynard Ferguson Institute of Jazz Studies at Rowan University) — On the Sunny Side of the Street.

As the title of the former illustrates, Maynard Ferguson knew how to blow up a musical storm, and these two albums stand to testify just that. And these reissues might set the time machine backwards, but prove that his music was also truly timeless.

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