Thursday, October 14, 2004

MF in Winfield, Wounded Bird and JLCO

I rearranged my work schedule and drove down to Winfield for Mayard Ferguson's Tuesday night concert at Southwestern College. There was a good crowd, the Winfield Courier put it at 350.

All Music says

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 has kept most of that range through the decades 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), Maynard Ferguson has nevertheless led some important bands and definitely made an impact with his trumpet playing.

...In 1950 with the formation of Kenton's Innovations Orchestra, Ferguson became a star, playing ridiculous high notes with ease. In 1953 he left Kenton to work in the studios of Los Angeles and three years later led the all-star "Birdland Dreamband." In 1957 he put together a regular big band that lasted until 1965, recorded regularly for Roulette (all of its recordings with that label are on a massive Mosaic box set) and performed some of the finest music of Ferguson's career. ...

After economics forced him to give up the impressive band, Ferguson had a few years in which he was only semiactive in music, spending time in India and eventually forming a new band in England. After moving back to the U.S., Ferguson in 1974 drifted quickly into commercialism. Young trumpeters in high school and colleges were amazed by his high notes but jazz fans were dismayed by the tasteless recordings which resulted in hit versions of such songs as the themes from Star Wars and Rocky and much worse. After cutting back on his huge orchestra in the early '80s, Ferguson recorded some bop in a 1983 session, led a funk band called High Voltage during 1987-88 and then returned to jazz with his "Big Bop Nouveau Band," a medium-sized outfit with which he still tours the world. Although MF's range finally started to shrink a little in the 1990s, he is still an enthusiastic and exciting player.

I bought the LP "Maynard '62" many years ago and found it to be a very enjoyable album. I was never a big fan of his commercial period, but dug some of his hits when I heard them on radio.

Despite the lecture from All Music, I enjoyed the "MF Hit Medley." And so did the audience. Macarthur Park is drek, but Chameleon is a great tune. I usually try to support artists by buying CDs at the concert. Tuesday I bought, Carnival because it includes "Birdland," which was the encore selection. Then I debated between two CDs which received 4 (of 5 possible) stars on All Music discography. I went for Brass Attitude which was a lucky pick. There was one concert number I really liked because it was very different from both his Roulette repertoire and the commercial stuff of later decades. All Music reviewer Richard Ginell describes it this way

Thankfully, an element of strangeness bursts forth at the album's midpoint, "Misra-Dhenuka," a nearly 16-minute reminder of MF's sabbatical in India. Grounded in a raga, it dissolves into a 6/8 meter vamp based on what sounds like a Spanish chordal pattern.

Carnival is on the Wounded Bird label, a fantastic re-issue only label that specializes in the reissue of albums from the 60's, 70's and early 80's on compact disc.

Their releases are properly licensed from the owner of the original masters, in most cases the original record label and sometimes the artists themselves. The price for most CDS seems to be $10.98. Artists represented include rock greats like the Byrds, Butterfield Blues Band, Commander Cody, and Mother Earth. But there also some some fine jazz including Modern Jazz Quartet, Duke Ellington, Larry Coryell and Herbie Mann.

Jazz at Lincoln Center has some brand spankin' new halls and is celebrating with a Grand Opening Festival from October 21 to November 5. Some highlights

Let Freedom Swing: A Celebration of Human Rights & Social Justice
Thursday–Saturday, October 28-30, 2004, 8pm Rose Theater

The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis celebrates the charismatic leaders who gave voice to the struggle, and whose words and deeds continue to be invoked as new struggles emerge. Six extraordinary world premiere musical commissions will paint a backdrop for inspirational oratory on liberty and triumph by Vaclav Havel, Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Performed by celebrity readers, including Morgan Freeman, Glenn Close and others and set to music by an international array of composers including Darin Atwater, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Darius Brubeck, and Zim Ngqawana, Jimmy Heath, Emil Viklicky and Stevie Wonder, this is a rare evening of ideas and ideals. Freedom swings.

The Duke and the Count Monday, October 25, 2004, 7:30pm The Allen Room

This evening marks the only opportunity this season to experience the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis in The Allen Room. Unfolding under the stars are Duke Ellington’s 1943 Black, Brown, & Beige, a three-movement symphony, and the most important and successful longform work in the history of jazz. For lovers of Kansas City Swing, we present the recently re-discovered and highly-acclaimed 1960 Kansas City Suite, written by maestro Benny Carter for Count Basie.

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