Remembering Maynard Ferguson
Today in my van I listened to the European cd release of Maynard Ferguson's MF Horn II. As an lp vinyl recording, it was the first Maynard album I owned. I have loved this record since my high school days and had been anxiously waiting for the cd to become available. A couple of weeks ago it was released in Europe and became available through Amazon-UK. As I listened to "Give It One", the first cut on the disc, it made me think of the time I first played the vinyl record on my Panasonic turntable in the mid 70's. I remember how those screaming high notes blew me away! I was very familiar with his music because, as a high school student attending the Kentucky Summer Wind Ensemble each year, fellow student Charlie Khan brought his stereo to the UK dorm room along with some Maynard albums. Many of us would gather each night in Charlie's dorm room to listen to Maynard, Emerson Lake & Palmer, and Charles Mingus records.
I reached my destination and got out of my van as my cell phone rang. I saw my friend Chris Conway's name pop up on the caller id. Chris is also a huge MF fan and was calling to tell me that Maynard had just passed away. I felt sick. I've had that same terrible feeling before. I remember how I felt when I heard that Woody Herman had died. It was the same feeling I had when Rahsaan Roland Kirk passed away. That feeling also occurred when I learned of the deaths of Chicago guitarist Terry Kath, Count Basie, John Lennon, and Bill Chase. I hate that empty feeling.
Maynard brought me much enjoyment. I not only have collected and enjoyed all of his recordings, but have attended many of his concerts. After each concert I would hang around to meet him and obtain autographs and take photos. He was always accomodating and was a genuinely nice guy.
Trying to remember all the occasions I've heard him, I vividly remember concerts at Scott High School in northern Kentucky, two at Bogart's in Cincy, Scott County High School, Kool Jazz Festival in Cincy, McCreary County High School, a couple of times at Breedings in Lexington, and a Cincinnati High School. The first time I heard him live was at Bogart's in Cincinnati. I rode with trumpet great Vince Dimartino. The things I remember most about that trip was how fast Vince drove (dude scared me to death as he hurriedly weaved through traffic while listening to a cranked up Doc Severinsen tape). Maynard and the band were incredible...even more exciting than what I had anticipated. Another memorable trip was to Scott County High School to hear him. This was at the time "Rocky" was hot. Kim Harrod, my brother Johnny and I went to that concert. Afterwards we went out to the band bus to wait to talk to Maynard. The bus door was open, so I peeked in saying "Anybody home, anybody home?" Maynard was sitting at the back of the bus and invited us on. We all loved the opportunity of getting autographs and talking with the trumpet legend. Another fun concert was when my friend Chuck Buechel went with me to a Scott High School where we met Kim Harrod and Jennifer Harrod. Jennifer was pregnant with Reida and said that the baby enjoyed the concert from the womb. After the concert we all met Maynard on his band bus for more autographs and photos. Local trumpet standout Robert Moser was at the band bus to meet Maynard too. I took my trumpet playing niece Elizabeth to hear him last year and she loved getting her picture made standing next to him. Melody went with me a couple of years ago to hear him at McCreary County High School. Kim and Jennifer Harrod were at that concert too. Once again, Maynard took time after the concert to talk with us, pose for photos, and sign cd covers.
One of the most treasured Maynard keepsakes I own is a fantastic photo that I took of him in the early 80's in concert at Breedings, a Lexington nightclub. I brought that photo with me to a later concert and had him sign it for me. He commented on how much he liked the photo and even called to one of his trumpet players to look at the photo. Laughing, Maynard said "See, I wasn't always fat!" I have the autographed 11 x 14 photo framed and prominently hanging in my music studio. Another of my favorites is the signed 10 cd Mosaic box set "The Complete Roulette Recordings".
After learning of his death from Chris' call, I called Kim to let him know. Kim said "if I have a hero, I guess it would have to be him." Maynard affected many people this way. We will all miss him. It's now past midnight, but I'm still going to take a drive in my van down the bypass and listen to the rest of MF Horn II on compact disc.