Maynard Ferguson ‘M.F. Horns 4&5: Live At Jimmy’s’ CD (BGO) 3/5

Trumpeter and big band leader Maynard Ferguson came to prominence during the 1970’s and 1980’s and this 1973 live recording produced by Teo Macero has not seen the light of day on CD in the UK save for a brief re-issue that was rapidly deleted thereafter and this re-mastered set is a favourite of many a big band fan who purchased the original vinyl edition and as such will be required listening. While not on a par with the innovative work of the Thad Jones and Mel Lewis band and the instrumentalists here are lesser known names though perfectly competent, Maynard Ferguson is nonetheless a respected bandleader in the mainstream tradition who has continued to thrive and perform at festivals, including the Wigan International Jazz Festival, in recent years. He adapted popular tunes to the jazz idiom including here a reworking of Jimmy Webb’s, ‘Mac Arthur Park’ (later a disco hit for Donna Summer), while in a slightly Latin vein is, ‘Teonova’, that pays homage to the sound engineer and producer of the album, and of which the title takes a leaf out of the Miles Davis composition, ‘Neo (also in a different version named ‘Teo’) from the early 1960’s, Live at the Nighthawk’ album. A quality ballad is, ‘I’m gettin’ sentimental over you’, while a blues-inflected groove is evident on both, ‘Two for Otis’, and, ‘Blue Birdland’. Previous double pairings of Ferguson’s work in the ‘1, 2, 3’ series, and all available on BGO, are probably the first place to search for his big band outings. This latest re-issue completes the series and is recommended to long-time fans of the Ferguson sound.

Tim Stenhouse