Maynard Ferguson Album Reviews - High Voltage 2
Originally printed in Stereo Review, July 1989.
Performance: Moderate Maynard
Recording: Very Good
The press kit for "High Voltage 2" refers to Maynard Ferguson as a "legendary trumpeter." The tag was presumably attached by a well-meaning promoter to make us bow our heads reverently and perk up our ears, but it made me wince. True, Ferguson has been around for a few years, but legendary he is not. If you are old enough to have followed the jazz scene in the late Fifties and Sixties, you probably remember him as a high-powered trumpeter whose big band generated so much steam that some people thought it obscured the music. It sometimes did, but there were first-class musicians in the band, and that was its saving grace.
Ferguson's current band is a septet called High Voltage. Its members are relatively young, and its sound is a cross between fusion funk and Fifties funk - nowhere near the voltage of old, I'm glad to say. Ferguson was always a good technician, and that facility was fully exploited when he rose to the top thirty years ago. There is still some grandstanding here, and a touch of the balloon-about-to-burst exhibitionism that marked the work of Harry James, but in the main, this second album with High Voltage shows us a kinder, gentler, more musical Maynard Ferguson.