Walter "Maynard" Ferguson was a Canadian-born jazz trumpet player and bandleader. He came to prominence playing in Stan Kenton's orchestra, before forming his own band in 1957. He was noted for being able to play accurately in a remarkably high register, and for his bands, which served as stepping stones for up-and-coming talent.
Early life and education
Ferguson was born in Verdun, Quebec (now part of Montreal). Encouraged by his mother and father (both musicians), Maynard was playing piano and violin by the age of four. At nine years old, he heard a cornet for the first time in his local church and asked his parents to purchase him one. At age 13, Ferguson first soloed as a child prodigy with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Orchestra and was heard frequently on the CBC, notably featured on a Serenade for Trumpet in Jazz written for him by Morris Davis. Ferguson won a scholarship to the French Conservatory of Music where he studied from 1943 through 1948 with Bernard Baker.
Ferguson dropped out of Montreal High School at age 15 to more actively pursue a music career, performing in dance bands led by Stan Wood, Roland David, and Johnny Holmes. While trumpet was his primary instrument, Ferguson also performed on other brass and reed instruments. Ferguson later took over the dance band formed by his brother Percy, playing dates in the Montreal area and serving as an opening act for touring bands from the United States. During this period, Ferguson came to the attention of numerous American band leaders and began receiving offers to come to the United States.
Ferguson moved to the United States in 1949 and initially played with the bands of Boyd Raeburn, Jimmy Dorsey, and Charlie Barnet. The Barnet band was notable for a trumpet section that also included Doc Severinsen, Ray Wetzel, Johnny Howell, and Rolf Erickson. Ferguson was featured on a notoriously flamboyant Barnet recording of Jerome Kern's All The Things You Are that enraged Kern's widow and was subsequently withdrawn from sale. When Barnet temporarily retired in 1949 and disbanded his orchestra, Ferguson was free to accept an offer to join Stan Kenton's newly formed Innovations Orchestra.
Kenton and Hollywood
Stan Kenton had a longstanding offer to Ferguson but had temporarily disbanded when Ferguson moved to the United States. Kenton's bands were notable for their bombastic brass sections and Ferguson was a natural fit. In 1950, Kenton formed the Innovations Orchestra, a 40-piece jazz concert orchestra with strings, and with the folding of the Barnet band, Ferguson was available for the first rehearsal on January 1, 1950. While the Innovations Orchestra was not commercially successful, it made a number of remarkable recordings, including Maynard Ferguson, one of a series of pieces named after featured soloists.