Live From San Francisco

Maynard Ferguson

Omnivore, 2015

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Jazz trumpet player and band leader Maynard Ferguson could hit seemingly impossibly high register notes. He learned his craft while serving in bands led by the likes of Stan Kenton, Jimmy Dorsey, and Charlie Barnett. He formed his own band in 1957 and was able to remain relevant and popular from the end of the big band era through the rock and roll era until his death in 2006.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Ferguson explored a number of styles and sounds within a big band setting. Swing, bebop, and cool jazz dominated the first part of his career. During the 1970s and early 1980s, he moved in a more commercial direction as musical tastes changed during the disco era. In 1982, he readjusted his sound in a fusion direction, combining a big band foundation with classical jazz, which brings us to the reissue of his 1984 live album Live From San Francisco.

His band at the time consisted of a nine piece brass section and a basic drums/bass/keyboard rhythm foundation. It is a full sound with plenty of room for solos. Key to his music during this time period is the underpinning of drummer Gregg Bissonette.

The highlight of the performance is the 13 minute “Bebop Buffett,” which is a brass filled tribute to Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk. Ferguson steps forward for a rare vocal duet on the classic “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” with band member Denis DiBlasio. Throw in originals such as “Fireshaker,” “Ganesha,” and “Coconut Champagne” and you have the makings of a concert that presents Ferguson at his best.

The sound is excellent for the time period and holds up well. There could have been better liner notes, but that is a minor complaint.

Live In San Francisco catches Ferguson at the beginning of the fertile last phase of his career and may be the best live recording of his career. It is a performance to savor.

Rating: B+

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