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Maynard Ferguson: Brass Attitude

Jim Santella By

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From the session’s opening "Just Friends" to "The Lip," Maynard Ferguson’s powerful high-note chops are in remarkably fine form. From his brassy lower register to his ultra-high leaps, the trumpeter struts and soars before his 10-piece Big Bop Nouveau ensemble. Starting out almost 50 years ago, Ferguson trained in the big bands of Charlie Barnet, Boyd Raeburn, Jimmy Dorsey, and Stan Kenton. Over the years, he’s provided working-band experience for innumerable younger jazz stars.

The spicy Latin arrangement of Cole Porter’s "I Love You" contains many of the elements that make Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau albums interesting. Allowing each of the band’s members to stand apart from the crowd, the various voices dash off in all directions at once. Drummer Throckmorton flexes his muscles, each of the brass section members toss out spurious ideas, pianist Oswanski hammers away at a continuous vamp, bassist Thompson bends his notes to provide dance steps, and solos pour forth from Carl Fisher, Tom Garling & Ferguson. "Erica and Sandra," "Caruso," and "Milk of the Moon" are lovely ballads that contrast with the up-tempo energy experienced throughout most of the session. Ferguson’s lyrical flugelhorn work is light and fluid; his phrases are imaginative and soar above the ensemble’s clever arrangements. It’s on two of these ballads that the leader introduces the soulful tenor saxophone work of Sal Giorgianni, a confident soloist with a full, clear tone. "Caruso" is an emotional piano-flugelhorn duo that showcases the trumpeter’s wide vibrato and forceful soul-stirring power.

Ferguson picks up the firebird (a combination valve & slide trumpet) for special effects on "Misra-Dhenuka," which features his vocal chants, a bowed bass, soulful trombone wails, stirring trumpet & flugelhorn anthems, and individual solo spots. At nearly 16 minutes, the piece stands out as the session’s highlight and offers a clear picture of the multi-directional aspect of this band’s arrangements. Pianist Ron Oswanski must have gone through quite a few boxes of manuscript paper to create such an intricate arrangement.

The electric bass and electric keyboards used on "Knee Deep in Rio" give off a contemporary sound that mellows the arrangement considerably. However, it’s on this piece that trumpeter Carl Fischer takes the opportunity to show his talents: rich tone, superb control, full range, and exciting depth of ideas. Maynard Ferguson has spent a lot of years introducing "talent deserving wider recognition" and we hope that this will continue for many more years.

Track Listing: Just Friends; Waltz for Nicole; I Love You; Milk of the Moon; Misra-Dhenuka; Knee Deep in Rio; Erica and Sandra; The Lip; Caruso.

Personnel: Maynard Ferguson- trumpet, flugelhorn, firebird; Frank Greene- trumpet; Carl Fischer- trumpet, superbone; Wayne Bergeron- trumpet; Tom Garling- trombone, superbone; Matt Wallace- tenor saxophone, alto saxophone; Sal Giorgianni- tenor saxophone, alto saxophone; Dave Throckmorton- drums; Ron Oswanski- piano, keyboards; Paul Thompson- electric bass, acoustic bass; Denis DiBlasio- vocals & baritone saxophone on "The Lip."

Title: Brass Attitude | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Concord Music Group

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