|MF in MO
February 21, 1998 - Central Missouri State University - Hendricks Hall
By Matt Keller
On February 21, 1998, Maynard Ferguson and his ever-evolving Big Bop Nouveau Band wowed a sold-out crowd at Hendricks Hall, located in the middle of the Central Missouri State University campus. I am, of course, the biggest Maynard fan of all time, so I showed up early for the show. The town of Warrensburg was obviously a Maynard-friendly community, as I saw several fans in the lobby holding old Maynard albums like "Chameleon," "Alive and Well in London," and "Primal Scream." I overheard one fan mention to Ed Sargent, tour manager, that this would be his 33rd show. Wow! Now that's a Maynard Ferguson fan!
The concert was the grand finale of a very large jazz "festival" that is hosted at the university every year. 40 jazz bands from around the area competed and Maynard and Big Bop Nouveau gave a clinic that day for the young musicians. This meant that not only was the show packed, but it was packed with young, enthusiastic jazz players! This, of course, is the ideal audience for a Maynard show. Thunderous applause and enthusiastic shouts filled the auditorium from the moment Maynard took to the stage until the last note was played. What a difference a spirited audience can make! As usual, the band started with Blue Birdland, Maynard's theme song. Maynard stepped out and belted out the first few notes with his usual stratospheric style, giving whiplash to the first ten rows. Anyone who has been to a Maynard Ferguson concert will confirm that no matter how prepared you think you are or how many shows you've been to, you are never fully ready for Maynard's first notes.
Blue Birdland wrapped up and Maynard said his hellos, and then it was time to get started. Maynard counted off "You Got It" (a Tom Garling composition) in his usual fashion, by stomping his feet to the beat. Tom Garling started off with the first solo of the evening, on a valve trombone. I've never heard Tom play valve trombone before and I'm happy to report that he's just as remarkable as he is on a slide trombone. MF took the next solo, kicking it off with the same opening notes as the album version. Wrapping up the tune was David Throckmorton, Big Bop Nouveau's new drummer and, I might add, the best drummer I've heard with BBN in years.
Next Maynard announced Caravan, which brought another round of shouts from the excited high schoolers in the audience. Maynard stomped it off and immediately I noticed the rhythm section. The combination of Ron Oswanski (piano, keyboards), Paul Thompson (upright bass and bass guitar), and David Throckmorton (drums), is unbelievable. They turned the traditional rhythm of Caravan into something much more interesting. Maynard started the melody line on flugel, before moving to the MF Horn for the last part. Tom Garling took the first solo, which was amazing. I, for one, think that Tom's best solos are in Latin tunes (listen to Manteca or Caravan if you doubt me). I don't think I've ever heard such interesting solos from a trombone. Matt Wallace (sax) took the next solo on tenor sax before handing over the solo space to Ron Oswanski. Then came Sal Giorgianni (sax) and Maynard (flugel) dueling over the mellow section of their arrangement. It was David Throckmorton, however, who stole the show with his VERY extended drum solo. It was amazing...including some great funk stuff. He's just as entertaining to watch as he is to listen to. Lead player Frank Greene (can you say POWER?) came out front to display his great high chops at the end of the tune.
After Caravan, it was time to slow down a little. "Sweet Baba Suite" came next, with the usual "I wrote this in India" intro. Maynard started the tune with his meditation, accentuated by mysterious lighting that only allowed the audience to see his silhouette. Picking up a soprano sax, Maynard traded licks with Sal Giorgianni, who was playing a very exotic sounding flute solo. Ron Oswanski, Paul Thompson, and Carl Fischer (trumpet) all took solos in this song, before Maynard dazzled the crowd with his excellent half-valve technique. Trumpet players can confirm that this is not as easy as it sounds.
"I Don't Want to be a Hoochie Koochi Man No Mo'" came next, with Matt Wallace on vocals. Carl Fischer ripped off an amazing plunger solo before he and Frank Greene traded licks. Tom Garling finished off the tune.
After all of this music, there was only one show-stopper left - the ever popular "Cajun Cookin'". Can Denis DiBlasio write a tune or what? The song lasted until the first solo section, and then it abruptly turned into the MF Hit Medley! Maynard took to the audience to shake hands (and to nearly get mobbed by kids looking for a handshake) while the band played great versions of Macarthur Park, Rocky, and Chameleon (featuring an UNBELIEVABLE bass guitar solo by Paul Thompson). Once Maynard returned to the stage, the band shuffled into "When the Saints Go Marching In," drawing a huge response from the crowd.
Birdland (no surprise here) was the encore, and it was warmly received. Tom Garling soloed on guitar (which he has taught himself to play over the last couple of years or so) and Matt Wallace soloed on sax. Maynard's last note came out brilliantly, and it was all over. Despite the fact that the set list has no surprises, it is still quite refreshing to see Maynard and BBN play in an atmosphere where the fans are really enthusiastic. Maynard fans are some of the most loyal of any group of fans. In fact, after the show a group of high school boys got their hands on Maynard's water glass that was sitting on the stage. They passed it around, sipping from it as though it were the Holy Grail. Fanaddicts? Obsessed fans? Draw your own conclusions.