Maynard Ferguson 5/4/28 - 8/23/06

Maynard Ferguson

Nobody has made a greater impact or had a greater influence on trumpet players and trumpet literature than Maynard Ferguson. PERIOD! We will ALL miss Maynard, his music, and his amazing spirit dearly. ~ Mark Van Cleave

NEW!! Maiden on Maynard
Great interview of Willie Maiden by Jim Szantor

TPO Maynard Ferguson Forum
Frank Vardaros MF Memories
About Maynard - Doc Severinsen
MF Tribute Concerts Scheduled
Maynard Video Tributes
Maynard Tribute Sites
Maynard Ferguson Discography
Maynard's Requiem

Maynard Ferguson Memorial

A few Maynard quotes...

  • Change is always happening. That's one of the wonderful things about jazz music. ~ Maynard Ferguson
  • I remember the night when I was playing at Birdland, and Duke Ellington walked in wearing that cap of his and with all his elegance. The Duke then came backstage, and I was there with my band. That's the one thing I miss. ~ Maynard Ferguson
  • The day of the great jazz improviser who doesn't know how to read music is over. ~ Maynard Ferguson

Arturo Sandoval to to Perform tribute to the late
Maynard Ferguson in Miami, FL Wednesday, August 30.

Maynard Ferguson AlbumsLOS ANGELES - Jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, known for his soaring high notes and for his hit recording of “Gonna Fly Now,” which lent the musical muscle to the “Rocky” movies, has died. He was 78.

Ferguson, who lived in nearby Ojai, died Wednesday night at Community Memorial Hospital of kidney and liver failure due to an abdominal infection, friend and manager Steve Schankman said Thursday.

Ferguson’s four daughters, Kim, Lisa, Corby and Wilder, and other family members were at his side when he died, he said.

“Someone just said, ‘Gabriel, move over to second trumpet,”’ Schankman said from his St. Louis office. “He was the last of the greats. That era is closed. There is no Kenton, no Basie, no Ellington, and now, no Ferguson.”

Marynard FergusonBorn into a musical family in Montreal, Ferguson began playing the piano and violin at age 4, took up the trumpet at 9 and soloed with the Canadian Broadcasting Company Orchestra at 11, then quit school at 15 to pursue a career in music.

The next year he was leading his own dance band, the first of a number of big bands and smaller ensembles he eventually fronted in a career that produced more than 60 albums and three Grammy nominations.

Three-time 'trumpeter of the year'
Ferguson, also a much admired teacher, became identified with ear-piercing power and dizzying high notes that he was still able to play with precision. He was named Down Beat magazine’s “trumpeter of the year” three times.

“My instrument is a thing of pleasure, and I play it only because I enjoy it,” he once said. “The most important thing is doing what feels right for me.”

The trumpeter — who stood just 5 feet 9 — credited yoga with enabling him to harness the full capacity of his lungs and routinely hit a double-high-C.

“He will be remembered for his soaring high notes, he’ll be remembered as Stan Kenton’s lead trumpet player and he’ll be remembered for movie soundtracks like ‘The Ten Commandments,”’ Schankman said. “But what they should remember him for is his work as an educator.

“He played for students, visiting high schools, to raise money for instruments and music programs. And he left them with an inspiring remark.”

As with many esteemed jazz players, mainstream success largely eluded Ferguson. But he scored a Top-10 hit with his version of “Gonna Fly Now,” and the single spawned a gold album and a Grammy nomination in 1978.

Maynard Ferguson Memorial“I knew it was going to be a hit,” he once said of the Bill Conti composition. “Sylvester Stallone was in the studio when we recorded it,” punching a speed bag to the rhythm of the song.

“If you listen very close to the original recording, you can hear in the mix the sound of him hitting the small bag,” Ferguson said.

Big-band man
Ferguson moved to the U.S. at age 20, playing in big bands — including Jimmy Dorsey’s — and performing solo in New York City cafes. He then joined Stan Kenton’s orchestra, where his shrieking, upper-register trumpet formed the backbone of the group’s extensive brass section.

In 1956 he formed the first of several 13-piece orchestras known for the crisp vigor of their horns. They helped launch the careers of such jazz notables as Chick Corea, Chuck Mangione, Bob James, Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul.

As the popularity of jazz declined in the 1960s, Ferguson was forced to scale down his big band, touring less frequently and favoring a smaller sextet instead.

He moved his family to India, where he absorbed Eastern music and philosophy, then to England. He later moved back to the U.S., settling in California.

But he returned almost yearly to India.

“I go to teach, but I always end up learning more,” he said.

In the late ‘60s and ‘70s, he created a musical niche by rearranging pop and rock songs — “MacArthur Park” and the Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” for example — for big bands.

Maynard Ferguson at Ryles - 75th BirthdayMeanwhile, “Conquistador,” the album that included “Gonna Fly Now,” reached No. 22 on Billboard’s charts and helped rekindle the public’s interest in big bands.

Born in Montreal on May 4, 1928, Ferguson said his most important musical influences were Louis Armstrong and his mother, a violinist with the Ottawa Symphony and later a school administrator.

He remembered being about 9 when he fell in love with the horn.

“I went to a church in Montreal, sort of like a Sunday school get-together,” and had a chance to put a cornet to his lips, he told the St. Cloud (Minn.) Times in 2003.

“It was my first time playing the instrument,” Ferguson said. “My parents were really surprised when I said, ‘I have got to get me one of these.’

“I remember having the feeling after I played it that the trumpet was the instrument for me.”

Schankman said a memorial service will be held later in St. Louis.

Maynard FergusonOjai, CA (August 24, 2006) - Walter "Maynard" Ferguson, one of the most influential musicians and band leaders in the history of Jazz, passed away August 23rd at 9:00 pm Pacific Time at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California. He was 78 years old. His death was the result of kidney and liver failure brought on by an abdominal infection. Mr. Ferguson's four daughters, Kim, Lisa, Corby, and Wilder were at his side when he passed away after this brief illness. He spoke by phone with his friend and manager Steve Schankman from St. Louis, longtime tour manager Ed Sargent, and friend, and fellow trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.

Mr. Ferguson had recently returned home to California from New York after several sold out performances in July at the famed Blue Note Club plus. During this time, Ferguson and his Big Bop Nouveau band also recorded a new album at Bennett Studios in Englewood, New Jersey.

Maynard FergusonMaynard Ferguson, born May 4th 1928 in Montreal, started his career at the age of 13 when he performed as a featured soloist with the Canadian Broadcasting Company Orchestra. He played with some of the great Big Band Leaders of the 1940's including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Barnett, Jimmy Dorsey and Stan Kenton. In 1945, at age 17, Ferguson became the leader of his own Big Band. The 78-year old musical phenomenon went on to record more than 60 albums, receiving numerous honors and awards including the GRAMMY® nomination for "Gonna Fly Now." In 2005, Ferguson was awarded Canada's highest civilian honor, the "Order of Canada" from the Right Honorable Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. In addition to those accolades, Ferguson has been the recipient of DownBeat Magazine's prestigious "DownBeat" Award.

"The Boss," as Ferguson is known, has been performing for packed houses for decades. His recent DVD release, "Live at The Top," captures one of his most memorable performances, a concert held at the Plaza Hotel in Rochester New York in 1975, with Ferguson performing alongside fellow music pioneers Stan Mark, Ernie Garside and Bruce Johnston. Most recently, Ferguson and Big Bop Nouveau Band had been touring the United States. He was preparing for a Fall Tour beginning mid-September in Tokyo, Japan. He had also been invited to play for the King of Thailand's 80th birthday in January.

Mr. Ferguson's body will be cremated in his hometown of Ojai, California. Memorial contributions can be made to the Maynard Ferguson Music Scholarship Fund at University of Missouri - St. Louis, which was established by Steve Schankman at Maynard's 75th birthday celebration. Mr. Schankman and the Ferguson family are planning a memorial concert to take place in St. Louis which will feature many of the band's alumni as and friends who Mr. Ferguson performed with during his more than 60-year musical career.

Maynard's Requiem

This account is written by Christian Jacob
Maynard's son-in-law, who for a time performed in Maynard's band on piano.

Maynard has always treated me as an equal, and I am sure that anybody that has been in the band has always felt this way. In the first month I was in the band, the fact that I was his son-in-law, if anything, has been more of weirdness for me on the bandstand than anything else. I think that the more time passed, the more Maynard was relieved to see that I was not a bad musician; it could have been really weird. He ended up loving the situation, and made sure that when it was time to introduce me, he would extend it and slip in a joke about how he had to let his youngest daughter go to a Frenchman in order to have him in the band. Another time where MF seemed relieved was when we were touring and on the band bus, we were taking the driver's microphone and telling jokes. After telling my joke, which by the way, was the dirtiest joke you can imagine, I remember seeing his face filled with shock, then after a few seconds uncontrollable laughter. Since this day, he knew that his son-in- law was one of the guys.

Maynard Ferguson

Since the death of Flo, his beloved wife [about a year ago], Wilder, my wife (his youngest daughter), and I lived with Maynard until the end of his life. We were taking care of the house when he was on tour and taking care of him when he was home. Maynard has always loved sports, but soccer wasn't really part of his sports interests, but he knew that soccer was the only sport that interested me, especially at world cup season. He made a point to watch every match of the 2006 Mundial with me and Wilder (who is a soccer fan as well). By the time of the (infamous) final, the whole family was watching and rooting for France, of course (my country of origin).

Lastly, I'd like to recount the most touching moment I'll ever remember. My 22-year-old cat, Dezi, whom Maynard was very fond of (he used to bounce her up and down on his belly) passed away. It was a pretty emotional day for all of us, and Maynard insisted on playing "Taps" for the little garden ceremony we had planned. Suddenly he turned to me and apologized for not having asked me first if that was the way I would like it to be. I was of course lost for words and reassured him that I loved the idea. Anyway, Maynard was helped down to the bumpy part of the garden, and with his cane (because of his feet swollen by gout) he slowly sat on a stool and played slowly and beautifully. He played with such a gorgeous round and full sound that I started crying. I remember hearing how carefully and beautifully he diminished his last note into silence. He then cried and was a little embarrassed about it. "Taps" was the last piece he ever played on the trumpet. He passed away 4 days later with all the family around him at his bed.

From Doc Severinsen

About Maynard

He was one of the nicest human beings I ever met. Never gossiped or spoke critically of other people, was never into acidic humor, very cheerful and an extremely classy man. Yet, he wasn't a softie type he knew who he was, knew how good he was, played the way he wanted to play, was never in your face about it.

Maynard Ferguson

He was a great inspiration to so many young musicians and beloved by his contemporaries and those who played in his bands. My own teacher, Benny Baker, taught in Montreal, and he told me about Maynard when he was still very young and playing in Canada only. He told me that Maynard could play anything he wanted...period. Could be a classical player, symphony player, just a fabulous talent.

As two young bucks, we were band mates on the Charlie Barnet Band, along with Ray Wetzel, John Howell and Rolf Ericson in the trumpet section. We played in London, Ontario while on tour and Maynard and I were at this big beautiful ballroom very early. Maynard wanted to be ready for his Canadian audience, and I, because I wanted to practice, and couldn't afford a dinner that night. I heard him do a Maynard warm-up for close to two hours. It was astonishing and I can still hear it whenever I need to or want to.

It will always be for me one of the most incredible displays of trumpet playing I have ever heard. Just the two of us -- I was so privileged to know him, to hear him, to be with him.

He will always be with us trumpet players. Always.

Doc Severensen

Mark Van Cleave - A Tribute to Maynard FergusonMF Tribute Concert Scheduled:
Please send info of any new tributes to

Arturo Sandoval plays Maynard Ferguson tribute concert
August 30, 2006
Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club
Deauville Beach Resort
8:30 PM and 10:30 PM

Maynard Ferguson Tribute Concert
September 20, 2006
Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center
(on the campus of University of Missouri – St. Louis)
8001 Natural Bridge Road
St. Louis, Missouri 63121

The Louisville All-Star Big Band - Remembering Maynard Ferguson
September 25, 2006
The Comedy Caravan
1250 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204

Rich Wetzel's Groovin Higher Jazz Orchestra - Maynard Ferguson Remembered
October 7th from 5-7pm
The Factory
5602 S. Washington St
Tacoma, WA 98409
(253) 474-1189 for dinner reservations ( encouraged )

The Dan McMillion Jazz Orchestra Tribute To Maynard Ferguson
Friday October 20 - 8 PM
The Largo Cultural Center,
Largo, Florida For Information
Phone 727-587-6751 

To Maynard with Love
Truman High School Jazz Band
November 15, 2006 7pm
Taylor, Michigan 48180

Mark Van Cleave - A Tribute to Maynard Ferguson
November 16, 7:00 PM
Neff Hall, IPFW Campus
2101 E. Coliseum Blvd.
Ft. Wayne, IN 46805

Maynard Ferguson

Maynard Video Tributes

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Maynard Ferguson's Horn

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