Sunday, August 27, 2006

Jazz Great Maynard Ferguson Dies

While browsing the net on Saturday, I came upon the obituary of jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson. He died this past Wednesday from kidney and liver failure at the age of 78.

Having played with some of the great big-band leaders of the 1940s including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Barnett, Jimmy Dorsey and Stan Kenton, Ferguson later struck out on his own, his career extending to just before his brief final illness. He was, perhaps, most well known to the general public for his version of "Gonna Fly Now" from the first Rocky film. This earned him a gold album and a Grammy nomination in 1978 and it became a top 10 hit.

As a high school trumpet player in the mid-70s, Ferguson was my musical idol. His phenomenal range and uncanny ability to clearly play the highest notes of the instrument were, in large part, the inspiration for me choosing to major in music in college.

I had the pleasure of meeting Maynard Ferguson in 1975, when I attended a concert he gave at a local high school. His encouraging words to our group of high school musicians after the concert further spurred my determination to further my musical education.

One fan, after hearing of Ferguson's death said that Gabriel will now have to play second trumpet in heaven.

That pretty well sums it up for me.

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