of "MAYNARD!" by Ralph
Jungheim September 5, 2009 By Matt Keller
1978, Ralph Jungheim sat down with thirty people (mostly musicians)
who knew Maynard Ferguson, and rolled tape. Ralph's new book,
"MAYNARD!", collects those interviews and gives
the reader thirty different perspectives on Maynard Ferguson
the man, musician, and bandleader.
Though all of these interviews were recorded in 1978, the
subject matter discussed goes as far back as 1947 or 1948,
to what may have been Maynard's first American gig. The book
(a 240 page paperback) is arranged chronologically, placing
musicians with the earliest Maynard associations first, and
putting those who were still on the band in 1978 (such as
trumpeter Stan Mark) last.
A little over ten years ago, Dr. William F. Lee released
an authorized biography of Maynard, called "MF
Horn: Maynard Fergusons Life In Music". Jungheim
this book for JazzTimes.com in 1998, saying "Sixty
years of this Canadian-born phenoms musical life in
a mere 256 pages. With little and/or nothing about those sometimes
equally colorful aspects of his personal life."
Clearly, Jungheim set out to put some of the "colorful
aspects" of Maynard's life on the record with this project.
The thirty perspectives in this book are quite varied, and
sometimes they even contradict each other. There is a common
thread of respect and admiration throughout each testimonial,
although many of the interviewees do not shy away from personal
or career difficulties that Maynard ran into from time to
time. This book simultaneously reinforces Maynard's reputation
for being super-human "When I worked with him he never
missed that double high C. No, he never missed. To make it
at all is astounding. He never got to the climax and fluffed
it. Never." (Bill Berry), and reminds us that he
was a human being "That 'Ridin High' session was a
mess. Maynard decided to do the whole thing in one day, which
was a mistake, obviously. Maynard wasn't quite in his top
form and it's a lot of pressure and takes a lot of endurance
to do an album like that in one day." (Lew Tabackin).
Some of the interviews shed light on events or recordings
that have become Maynard lore over the years. For instance,
Charlie Barnet recalls the recording of "Rhapsody in
Over the course of these thirty sets of recollections, a
few themes emerge: Maynard's talent came naturally to him.
Maynard gave everything he possibly could to every audience
in every performance. Maynard was not a bandleader that put
a high priority on discipline or rigidity, but he did not
tolerate negativity on his band. The 1960s were a turbulent
time in Maynard's life and career, and it took him a few years
to regain his footing. Maynard staged an enormously successful
comeback in the 1970s, blending traditional jazz with contemporary
music to create a style that would keep young people interested
in his recordings for generations to come.
This is an absolutely compelling read for Maynard fans that
are interested in learning more about Maynard, from the musicians
who played with him in the first 30 years of his career. However,
the picture assembled here is incomplete. In fact, Maynard
had nearly 30 more years of performing and recording after
these interviews were conducted that included a Grammy nomination,
induction into the Downbeat Jazz Hall of Fame, and his return
to a more straight ahead bebop-influenced big band sound in
the late 90s. Nonetheless, this book provides a fascinating
verbal accounting of the first half of Maynard's recording
and performing career.
MAYNARD! is a 240 page paperback published by Buster Ann
Music in 2009, and includes interviews with Charlie Barnet,
Shelly Manne, Bud Shank, Don Ellis, Rufus "Speedy"
Jones, Lanny Morgan, Don Menza, Lew Tabackin, Bob Summers,
Stan Mark, Dennis Noday, Lynn Nicholson, Joe Mosello, Mike
Migliore, Peter Erskine, and many others.