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Alan Wise Interview

Former Maynard Ferguson Band trumpeter Alan Wise was kind enough to answer a few questions for the Maynard Ferguson Tribute Page.


Tell us about you. What makes up your musical background?

My home town is Loveland, Colorado. I grew up there and went through public school. At first I played drums and then my parents took me to a Herb Alpert concert. You must remember that Herb Alpert was a superstar (his total album sales in the U.S. for the sixties were actually greater than the Beatles). That got me interested in playing trumpet. I talked to my band director and switched to trumpet. This was shortly before eighth grade. My Junior High band director, Norman Klump, exposed us to a lot of different music. My vivid first memory of hearing Maynard was on the recording of "Prologue: This is an Orchestra". I then started to study with Gil Garcia, who was a real taskmaster and serious private teacher. We worked on breathing constantly and it totally changed how I breathe even away from the trumpet. I then went to Colorado State University and studied with Dr. Jacob Larson. I consider him to be one of the greatest teachers who ever existed.

Who are your musical influences?

Maynard, Doc Severinsen, Bill Watrous, Frank Sinatra, Maurice Andre, Count Basie, and a thousand others. However, the really big influence was Bill Chase. "Get it On" led me to musical directions I would have never taken otherwise. I consider Bill Chase to be one of the greatest that ever lived. The things that he was playing were spectacular and that sound was just incredible! Chase was the epitome of what we trumpet players would like to be. Maynard is Mozart to all of us trumpet players.

What are some of your favorite jazz albums or artists?

Maynard (I have about 72 of his albums). M.F. Horn II was the first of his albums that I bought. When I heard "Give it One" I was hooked. I love M.F. Horn III with that great picture on the back and "Love Theme from the Valachi Papers".
Bill Chase. I heard the "River Suite" from the first album and when he comes in on the double C after the bass solo I said, "That is how I want to play trumpet".
Doc Severinsen. I think I own about every album he ever recorded. I still believe that he is the only trumpet player that can really sound like a legit player and a jazz player. A friend of mine who is principal trumpet in a major symphony pointed this out to me years ago.
Al Hirt. This man could play the trumpet. Stan Mark always said he was the most underrated trumpet player of all time. It was frightening the speed he could play.

Growing up, were you a fan of Maynard's music?

Absolutely. In fact, when I went on the band I was put down by certain members on the band because I was a fan. The attitude was "Fans of the band never make it".
I really feel that the M.F. Horn series helped save, and promote, a lot of jazz programs in the schools. The charts were available and you could go see Maynard. Directors would take students and see him play in a high school gym. No lights, minimal sound system, and what a show! I remember the first time I saw Maynard live. It was May 1st, 1975. He came out and just creased a doubled C# on "Blue Birdland". The band then went into "Left Bank Express". Then the knockout was "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me". I had taken my girlfriend to the show and didn't, or couldn't, say a word through the entire gig. I said at that time "In five years I will be on that band". I made it with time to spare.

How long were you with Maynard and his band?

One tour shy of seven years. I didn't leave the band and I wasn't fired. His management had convinced him to go with the "High Voltage" concept. I had always planned to do ten years and then go teach. Things rarely work out the way you planned.

How did you get on the band?

It was a process. Colorado was not exactly a hotbed for big bands picking up players. I got to know Stan Mark and started to develop a reputation. I then went to Ohio State and was hired straight out of school. As Stan always said it took four things to get the gig. 1. People have to know you. 2. You have to know people. 3. You have to have a great reputation. 4. You have to be a great player. You have to have the first three in order to get the opportunity to demonstrate #4.

Which albums did you record on?

"It's My Time," "Hollywood," (band is listed but we are not on it), "Storm," "Live in San Francisco," "Body and Soul," and various compilations of Maynard's stuff which is packaged in different formats. Usually it is "Everybody Loves the Blues."

How was playing on Maynard's band different from other gigs?

The intensity. Most players will never experience having to play that hard and for that long. It is zero to sixty in no time. Pacing? It did not exist. You played flat out (intensity wise) and made it through. It was great!
Bill Chase said in an interview that, "It was a thrill every night," to play on Maynard's band. That sums it up.

What Maynard song did you most enjoy playing during the time you spent with the band?

"Hey Jude," which is my mom's favorite. "Give it One" also stands out.

Do you have a favorite story from playing with the band?

Many. One stands out, though. We were in southern California in September of 1980. Maynard is doing his thing on "Pagliacci" playing flugelhorn. This was a trade between himself and David Ramsey (Uncle Funky) playing piano. Maynard is at the end of the "duet" and is going to lead the band in. He plays an A above the staff, jumps to the double A, and then jumps to the triple A on the flugelhorn. This is bang, bang and he holds the triple (no whistle). It was beautiful and the most phenomenal thing I have ever witnessed. This was totally musical and not an effect or high note for high note's sake.

What are you doing in music today?

Teaching and doing clinics/concerts. I really try to get out and expose the students to Maynard, Chase, Kenton, etc... A lot of them are unaware. It is great to see them have the experience of playing "MacArthur Park," "Hey Jude," and the rest of the of those great charts.

I am also in pre-production on a video on how to develop range. There is a way to learn to do it that is not a gimmick. This will show the player specifics on how to go about develop the skill. It should be available this Fall.

Do you have any tips for our trumpet playing readers?

Hold your horn up! Study the great players from all areas of trumpet playing. They all hold their horns up.
Listen constantly to recordings. Not just trumpet. Study things like how Sinatra phrases "I've Got You Under My Skin."
Go see professional players and as Clark Terry said, "Pester em with 10,000 questions." That is how you learn.
Buy my video this fall!!!

Did you learn anything about trumpet playing from Maynard?

Volumes! In seven years we talked about playing the trumpet for about 90 seconds. I watched his back constantly. There is the answer. It is not staring at his chops!

What do you think of the internet, and specifically, the M.F. websites?

I view the Internet as being the best, and worst, of both worlds. Let me explain. Numerous times I have been alerted to, or discovered, information about myself (and others) that is totally erroneous. Example: A posting on a site that said I went to Maynard complaining about welts on my chops. NEVER HAPPENED! A posting that said Stan Mark was openly hostile towards Maynard before he departed the band. ABSOLUTE LIE. I was there. No one, and I mean no one, could have been more loyal to Maynard Ferguson than Stan Mark. THE BEING DOESN'T EXIST! A recent posting that Maynard's first son just died. This is just sick to bring up an absolute lie. Maynard's son died in the 80's and it is shameful for someone to dredge up such a memory. The people posting need to be responsible to the benchmark: rumor or fact.
The music business is a strange one with a great deal of competition. Misquotes in articles can cause great harm. Years ago I gave an interview which has since appeared in a book. Quotes supposedly made by myself are absolute fabrication. One appeared to be a snip at Lin Biviano, who is a great player and my favorite lead player with Buddy Rich. All I ask is that people use some sense and rationalization. Sometimes words do hurt. I will answer any questions that fans put to me. Do not misquote me!

What misconceptions exist about Maynard?

  1. Maynard has special things done to his horns to make him play the way he does. Absolute fabrication. Maynard could play any thing that was put in front of him. At the pro level you play what you personally like as far as feel, etc...
  2. Maynard has steel teeth, teeth screwed in, an iron plate in his lips, etc... These rumors continue to persist. Sorry, the man is just really great. No gimmicks - just talent!
  3. Other pro's do not get along with, are afraid, or jealous of Maynard. I have never seen this. A couple of years ago I saw Doc with the K.C. Symphony. Dave Mancini was playing drums (old bandmate) and I finally got to meet Doc. Doc was great and very complimentary about Maynard. Both of these trumpet players are exceptional and should not be compared. It is like Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan, Mark McGuire and Babe Ruth, John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, etc.

What equipment do you use?

I play the Laskey/Pinc modified prototype S-42 Schilke trumpet. It is just incredible what they can do to a horn! Scott built this horn and it was really the first Schilke I ever played. I loved it from the moment I first played it. Scott Laskey is a genius about brass and is hesitant to accept credit where it is due. Remember the "Instrumentalist" magazine cover with Maynard on it? That is a Schilke (really Laskey) mouthpiece. I also play a Laskey mouthpiece. You can buy it, just call him!

Is there anything more you would like to comment on?

Yes. I want people to understand some things.

  1. Do Not Misquote! E-mail me at awisetpt@yahoo.com and I will answer your questions.
  2. Go see Maynard.


Thanks for the opportunity to speak. I really appreciate your credibility, and quality, that you so magnificently exhibit on your site.

I want to thank Alan for being so accessible, and for sending along this classic picture. Click on it to enlarge.


Alan, Pete, MF, Hugh