From the Vault...


Maynard Ferguson

© Columbia/Legacy Records Year of Release: 1977

track listing
  • Gonna Fly Now
  • Mister Mellow
  • Theme From Star Trek
  • Conquistador
  • Soar Like An Eagle
  • The Fly

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    Maynard Ferguson

    Maynard Ferguson began recording music in 1954, and throughout the next century. His Jazz breakthrough was in 1997, with Conquistador -- an album that would reach #1 on Billboard's Jazz Albums chart, and would become his only #1 album from that chart. Also to mention, that this album also did well on Billboard's Album chart in 1977, having a 13-week run, and peacking at number 28. Conquistador is a Jazz album, maybe even categorized as Smooth Jazz. This is an album, like many, another great Jazz/Smooth Jazz album to listen to.

    Maynard Ferguson was a trumpet player, and like his other fellow trumpeters, his music was highly regarded. He was from Canada, being a jazz musician and band leader. He was a member of Stan Kenton's orchestra, before forming his own band in 1957. Not only was known for his own bands, but he often would have musicians in his bands that would later become Jazz names of their own. Like on Conquistador two members were part of this recording, as they both would have their fair shares of having their own #1 Jazz albums: George Benson, and Bob James.

    Conquistador would be known for Ferguson's version (and single) of "Gonna Fly Now" which would become famous as the theme song to the Sylvester Stallone movie, Rocky. The movie version was recorded by Bill Conti, and would reach #1 on the Billboard Pop singles chart. Ferguson's version would be released before the movie version. His Rocky theme would become the biggest hit of his long career. Ferguson's version is just as equal as Conti's. Both versions were (and still is) great, 40 years later.

    The rest of the album is just as equally brillant. Mister Mellow -- as the title states, it's mellow, Smooth Jazz at its finest. Another theme on this album is Ferguson's updated and upbeat version of the television TV series, Star Trek. It's way different than the TV theme, of course, as Ferguson puts his own touch on the theme classic.

    The title track (which is totally different than most Rock fans would remember its title by the band Procol Harum), has great arrangements, and it's like hearing a track from a movie theme soundtrack. It's brilliant. (Note: The title track was co-written by Ferguson, along with Jay Chattaway. Procol Harum's "Conquistador" was written by band members Gary Brooker and Keith Reid.) The next track, "Soar Like An Eagle", will make you soar like an eagle; it's upbeat and lifting. (And no, it has no resemblence to Steve Miller's "Fly Like An Eagle." The album ends on another great upbeat Jazz track, "The Fly."

    Conquistador would become Ferguson's most successful album of his career. The album was rewarded as a gold record (his first and only one), and a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for "Gonna Fly Now." The album would classify as a "big band" record, as it would appear on the pop album charts, which an album of the Big Band genre had not appeared in decades. It would peak on the pop album chart at #22.

    Interesting reading from the album's Wikipedia site: After the experience of creating Primal Scream without his touring band, Maynard was determined to see them become an integral part of his next effort. While Bob James was firmly in control of the production, Ferguson was insistent that his band members would be a part of the proceedings. It became a bi-coastal effort, with the touring band recording in San Francisco between dates, and the James crew recording in New York. Two of the songs were recorded entirely in New York without any participation by Maynard's band; the themes from Star Trek and Rocky.

    Primal Scream seems to be another album to look into. For Rock fans, it's title would be best known to John Lennon fans, as he would have his own "primal screams" after the Beatles' breakup. The definition (or better yet, it's therapy) of Primal Scream: Psychotherapy in which the patient recalls and reenacts a particularly disturbing past experience usually occuring early in life and expresses normally repressed anger or frustration especially through spontaneous and unrestrained screams, hysteria, or violence.

    In looking at Maynard Ferguson's other album on Amazon, there are many 3 albums in one set. Primal Scream is one of those three-setters. Not only the album itself to listen to, there would be two other ones to listen and enjoy as well. Maynard Ferguson passed away on August 23, 2006, at the age of 78. The cause of death was from kidney and liver failure by an abdominal infection.

    He left behind a great legacy of Jazz music from his 52 years while alive. After his death, there have been unreleased material. After listening to Conquistador, it is no doubt that he would be one of the many Jazz trumpeter legends. Give Conquistador a listen, and you will want to hear more of the Legacy of Maynard Ferguson.

    © All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia/Legacy Records and is used for reference purposes only.

    Previous Review: #1558
    Melissa Etheridge--Your Little Secret
    Next Review: #1560
    Keith Urban--Ripcord