Thursday, August 31, 2006

Belated Obit: Maynard Ferguson



I got to see Maynard Ferguson live once, (or was it twice) at the old Leisure Lodge, back in the 70s, before it burned down. Man, what a powerhouse he was, and the band. Not necessarily a lot of finesse. When you're playing notes in the stratosphere, always on the verge of bursting a blood vessel in your brain, you can't expect the precision of a Swiss watch. But Ferguson defined screaming trumpet, and set the bar for all who followed. And by doing so, he made big bands popular again (for a while) at a time when everybody was stoned on acid and listening to Hendrix and Deep Purple. (Well...maybe some of you were listening to that ugly stepchild Disco...)

Here's an interesting thing. Really, it was my old man who introduced me to Ferguson. In fact we went together to big band concerts...Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich, Ferguson, Count Basie...me in my hippie phase, he in his nostalgia. If nothing else, we always had music appreciation in common. And I returned his favour by introducing him to Chicago. The band. Chicago. Early Chicago. Before they became an insipid hit machine. There's a trombone solo on their first album that my old man just loved.

Anyway, now I'm gonna have to go and listen to my old vinyl Ferguson records, just to remind me of what we lost.

Digg! diigo it

26 comments:

w.t. said...

Disco that ugly stepchild! That made me laugh! So apt. Reminds me of the black T-shirt my long haired son wore in that time, "Disco Sucks!"

My daughter was a fan of early Chicago. I think she came to it with her appreciation for classical music. She let me share in the passages she really liked. It was a music teacher in her school who raised the awareness of good music. Although Tomke already had that, she didn't always know where to look for it. Good music is not limited to a genre.I do not have albums of Chicago. So I cannot refresh my memory.

Am I right that "Colour your World" was one of their pieces?

I am not familiar with Maynyard Ferguson's music. After my school years I more or less lost interest in jazz. Was picky about what I liked and disliked. I must admit that I could get excited about some of the acid music, at folk festivals. Hit a snare in me. Still does, sometimes, depending what mood I am in. Am I wild thing, or am I lady la la?

Still the point is that it is always pretty obvious in any kind of music, who are the ones with good music training and the ones just faking it and belting it out. Maybe that doesn't quite say it right either. Some people have a natural ability to touch good emotions with their skill.

Some one with years of lessons in piano can play and make no emotional connections. Another just trying out, making mistakes, can make you swallow twice.

Larry Keiler said...

Yes, I call Disco an ugly stepchild, but the fact is, the band now plays a couple of those early tunes, Ra-Ra-Rasputin, for one, and musically they are not the simplest tunes on the block. So now I can appreciate the technical effort put into them, but it still don't mean I have to like em.

Colour My World, yeah that was Chicago. Sung by Terry Kath, the guitar player, who died early. His death may well have signalled the decline of Chicago from a progressive, interesting rock band to the overproduced, bland amalgamation of elevator operators they are now.

Today's acid music is still called Acid, but it's very different...heavily electronic, beat-oriented like a sort of dance music, elements of lounge music, elements of disco too. And of course, the drug of choice is no longer acid.

w.t. said...

I like Steppenwolf, g.e Magic Carpet Ride. When I told Hans he said that's acid music. Until then I didn'know. I guess that was still the real thing, huh, before it became elevator music?

A real favourite of mine was always "Black Magic Woman", by Santana. The album Abraxis. Don't care so much anymore for the rest of the album, but still like Black Magic Woman. Not because I arranged it that way, but I happened to hear the music after I had read Demian by Herman Hesse.

Larry Keiler said...

I saw Steppenwolf play live...once...at UW. Up pretty close to the front, near the big speakers. Loud! John Kay and whoever the other guitar player was both played clear acrylic guitars. Very cool for then. One of the things though, that made Steppenwolf interesting was their organ player, who had a unique percussive style.

Funny you should mention Black Magic Woman. Another tune the band has played. And I was just listening to it about an hour and a half ago.

Shakin' said...

Larry wrote: "at a time when everybody was stoned on acid" ?????

Wish I had known that then. I could have spent less time being paranoid.

Shakin' said...

Okay here is an image or vision I had this morning that made me smile.

A Canadian of German ancestry, shaved head, playing the accordion in a Buddhist Temple.

Big band? Sure! And it sounds like pure Jazz to me....

w.t. said...

Wow, life Steppenwolf!

I got distracted from house cleaning. (Not hard to do) Went downstairs to do some glazing. Put on Steppenwolf. Listened. Listened for the organ player. See if I could distinguish. Mmm, not sure. On the whole, the music grabbed me again.

Hey I'm not a druggie, never was one, Why do I like it so much? It goes great with being creative. Maybe, maybe, I was born to be wild??

Do you keep your head shaved in winter too, Larry?

When I came to Canada, most men had brush cuts. Yuck! I was happy with the Beetles introducing hair.
It modified, but still hair. Now it is bold. It's so stern. What about a Mohawk?

Mmmmm Mohawk Buddhist playing accordion? Maybe not.

Love you Larry, bold or ponytailed.

dummy w.t. said...

Oops, make that: LIVE Steppenwolf.

Larry Keiler said...

OK w.t., you mentioned Magic Carpet Ride. On the studio version, at least, there is a long instrumental section in the middle. It has guitars doing sound effect kind of spacy things. If you want to hear the organ, listen to what's in behind those guitars (and isn't drums). You'll hear the organ chugging away keeping the rhythm going.

Or in Born to Be Wild, after the first line, Get your motor running...the first thing you hear is the organ playing a chord... when you get used to hearing the timbre, you'll hear the organ everywhere.

Larry Keiler said...

Jazz me no jazz, shaky. Temple music = gongs and bells and little hand drums and big other drums with funny-shaped beaters and those long horn things that use reeds and can't play melody nohow so they sound like they're trying to wake the dead and maybe they are...wake up you dead souls and catch this cosmic jazz played just for you and the hungry ghosts by the cosmic jazz messengers from the tip of Tibet: ladies and gentlemen! Please welcome The Singing Bowls!

Larry Keiler said...

Wasn't everybody stoned on acid? Coulda sworn everybody was stoned on acid. Maybe it was Valiumites wishing...Maybe it was just Coleridge's cloud following me around.

Larry Keiler said...

Larry has a black toque which is very comfy. In winter.

Larry has a second black toque which he swore to not remove until the Canadian men's hockey team won gold at the Olympics.

Sigh....another broken vow.

w.t. said...

a broken vow is synonymous to a missed intention? Those intentions that are used to pave the way to hell? Must be the fastest growing highway anywhere. I too am one of the maintainers/contributors.

I will listen like you suggested. A stay away from hell intention.

Shakin' said...

I think that means ya needed to wear the touque until 2010, eh?

Larry Keiler said...

yeah, I really only lasted about 2 weeks though.

Larry Keiler said...

w.t., Randy Travis has this song on his first album where he says, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but mama, my intentions were the best..."

I love the depth of meaning in that line...

Since it's country music, if you play it backwards you'll get your wife/husband back, your house back, your car back, your dog back...

w.t. said...

I was trying to comprehend that. didn't know anything about Randy Travis. Wondered if he was or wasn't alive anymore. So looked up his bio. Guess what? He was born on May 4, same as me. Reading his bio I can see the failed best intentions...

Would he have wanted to play the music backward?

Larry Keiler said...

No, that's a reference to an old joke about country music.

What do you get when you play country music backwards? Your wife back, your house back etc.

(Because so much of country music played forwards is about losing your wife, losing your house, your dog, your job.)

w.t. said...

I see! I'm glad I asked. I'm learning. So often I would not ask, afraid to appear a dummy. But one just can't know everything. there is so much to learn. Thanks Lar'

The other night I turned on the TV since a long time. Just wanted something to entertain me. Ha! TV? To my surprise there started a documentary on Stomping Tom Connor. Although it's not what I like most in life, I settled down and enjoyed it. So country, so Canadian, I relaxed and enjoyed it.
I was delighted when he did some Bill Carter too. Wasn't it Biil Carter Bob Dylan took off on?

w.t. said...

Sjee, I sort of reread the coments and saw my last one. I must've been tired. What did I mean, Bill Carter, the man's name was Wilf Carter. He made up his songs about his immediate impressions and went around presenting it to people, an immediate audience. Just simple. No power equipment, high tech microphones, no auditions, struggle with publishers...

I think Bob Dylan worshipped him, if I remeber write ups on it.

Larry Keiler said...

Wilf Carter. Canadian born in Nova Scotia. Called the Yodelling Cowboy I think. Also known as Montana Slim in the US.

I remember as a kid my (German/Yugoslavian) grandparents had a Wilf Carter record which we really liked. I thought it was the Springhill Mining Disaster, but I just found on the Web a Bluebird label of a Carter record called The Rescue From Moose River Gold Mine. It might have been that one. Cuz the B side is a tune called Keep Smiling Old Pal, which rings a bell too.

Carter died in 1996 in Scottsdale Arizona. Scottsdale...now there's a place that seems to attract a lot of retired/older musicians, artists etc. The god of jazz accordion, Art van Damme, also lived there.

w.t. said...

I wonder why Montana Slim. Did he change his name himself or was it an American idea? I like the name Wilf Carter better. More original. Hey, nobody asked me.

I kept on having a song in my head, "Wilf Carter, Wilf Carter, ta da da da da, (can't recall those words, just rhythm and melody. I wracked my brain who
sang that. It just popped in. That was Valdy. It is on the live album, "Family Gathering". I have that album but it disappeared temporarily in the black hole. Have listened to it not too long ago.

Art van Damme. The name van Damme is so Dutch. Tried to find a personal bio. There doesn't seem to be one. Just listings of his work. I would be interested in his roots, origion...

Larry Keiler said...

Obviously Dutch. But Art van Damme was American. A Michigander. Did a lot of his recording in Germany, though. (Probably because they knew how to record accordions properly.)

Larry Keiler said...

Oops. I've been speaking of the accordion god in the past tense. Not 100% sure, but he's probably still alive. At least he was in 2005!

I saw him play live twice, both times in Detroit. God, he was good.

w.t. said...

Seems to me, considering that he is the God accordian jazz music, he must still be around. It would've been big news if he had died? Who knows, maybe you'll have another chance still to hear him live. It is said that all good things come in three.

w.t. said...

Man I am getting sloppy. One of these words is missing in the first sentence: or
on
of
Can figue it out? Do you live on Sesame Street?

free web counter
free web counter
Help! I've written and I can't get up!