Maynard Ferguson Album Reviews - Conquistador
From Downbeat. Date not available. Reviewer: Birmbaum
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Maybe Maynard figured his big band wasn't quite ready to go it alone in the disco derby. But for whatever reason, he augmented his group with enough top studio players to form their own symphony orchestra here. Everything shouldn't be put on Maynard's shoulders though, as it would seem that the date belonged to Jay Chattaway, who arranged and conducted all but one of the tunes. The results are not too bad as these things go, but if I'm going to listen to disco my preference runs toward the r&b variety, which is generally performed with a greater feeling for the idiom. In any case, all your favorite session hands from Eric Gale to Harry Lookofsky have pooled their enormous collective talent with Maynard's own skillful ensemble, producing some immaculately performed drivel, albeit not without a certain appeal. And not to be too harsh, let me hasten to add that Maynard has at least been gracious enough to allow other soloists some space to play, and there is some tasty work between the lines by band members and guests alike.
The tunes are all catchy, bouncy stuff - Bob James' Soar Like an Eagle (the only non-Chattaway chart) is nice and I admit a weakness for Theme From Rocky, although by year's end I'll probably regret having said that. George Benson gets to take a few licks on the otherwise pallid Mister Mellow, and Bobby Militello and Mark Colby of Maynard's men smoke a little flute and tenor respectively. As for the rest, it's amazing how 50 musicians can be mixed down to sound like three or four, but I still can't tell the players without a scoreboard. And of course Maynard, the conquistador, soars like and eagle over the entire proceeding with his customary virtuosity. His only competitor in the high register might be a fellow named Adolph Scherbaum, who must be flown out to record every version of Bach's second Brandenburg Concerto lest the trumpet part be dubbed with a piccolo. But can Scherbaum play fluegelhorn?