Remastered Chamelon Liner Notes - FULL
In July of 2003, Maynard's
album was remastered and re-released. Danny D'Imperio, drummer on
the Chameleon album (Danny also appears on the newly released At
The Top DVD), was asked to write some new liner notes. He did, but
they were shortened considerably for the final project. Danny has graciously
provided the Maynard Ferguson Tribute Page with the full liner notes for
us all to enjoy.
Note: Danny currently records with his own band. You can find more information at his website, http://www.whodat.com/audio/dansextet/dimperio.htm.
THE STORY OF THE CHAMELEON
Maynard Ferguson had basically been considered an expatriate since 1965 when he gave up his commercially unsuccessful American Band and relocated overseas. The CHAMELEON BAND was the beginning of reestablishing his operations in the United States. He had been doing "Tours of the U.S." with a British band but the IRS was getting hip to that so it made more sense to become an American commodity once again. The CHAMELEON BAND was what could be considered the United States resurgence of Maynard Ferguson.
It was a transitional period in that the 3 man saxophone section was comprised completely of foreigners. Lead altoist Andy "Mean" Mackintosh was from London. Bruce "Badman" Johnstone was the baritone saxophonist from New Zealand. Brian "Hardbop" Smith was on tenor and also from New Zealand. Alan Zavod was from Australia. Manager, Ernie Garside, was from Manchester, England. The rest of the band was American, except of course for Maynard who was from Montreal, Canada.
1974 was a very exciting year for the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra in that the colleges were really opening up to big bands. Buddy Rich, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, and of course Maynard, were all doing clinics at universities around the country. The "Big Band Jazz Rock" phase was beginning to catch on so the time was ripe for a showman, the caliber of Maynard Ferguson, to ravage the scene. I remember kids absolutely mesmerized when they'd hear those high notes and the energy coming from that stage. For me it was a dream come true. Having been a fan of Maynard's since youth I had given up hope of ever having the opportunity to play with the band since it was no longer performing in the U.S. When the invitation came, upon Randy Jones' departure, I didn't hesitate. I WAS THERE!!
I joined in January
of 1974 and we recorded the CHAMELEON album in April of that year. It
was actually the second tour of the year. We had done a very taxing three
months of one nighters and then took a short break. When we got back we
did the album in April. The following are the dates surrounding the sessions:
As you can see by the schedule, we didn't have a lot of breathing time in between sessions. That was a very hard drinking band ( I may have been the Sergeant Major along those lines) so as a result there was not much sleep prior to the sessions. We mostly hung out as a band at the Blarney Stone, an Irish gin mill on 49th & 8th Avenue, a stone's throw from the Hotel Piccadilly where we stayed which was on 46th and 8th. In short: there were some bloodshot eyes at those sessions as we were mostly hitting and running in 'n out of the City and spending late hours at THE BLARNEY STONE.
Re the sessions:
Another funny happenstance was that after the last session, late at night at the Blarney Stone (it stayed open 'til 5 AM) "Hardbop" Smith (Brian Smith) and I were at the bar discussing the sessions. At one point this bearded scrufty looking character, who was sitting next to me, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me but I've been listening to about one tenth of your conversation and I take it that you're musicians." I kinda blew the cat off with a, "Yeah that's right, Pal" and turned away. This Mug, being persistent, went on with, "Well I play alto and trombone myself." I said, "Yeah right, buddy, who are ya, Murray McEachern or somebody?" He said, "Yes, I am." I froze. I made him show me his ID, after which we had a great time palavering and buying each other drinks. Turns out he was in town meeting with Jane Dorsey to start up the Tommy Dorsey ghost band.
Back to the date:
Stanley "Wanley" Mark was the lead trumpet player and a total Mayonaisse (Maynard) devotee. He actually married a chick once to cop an out of print record she had by Mayonaisse. (The Maynard Ferguson Octet - Emarcy). After he got it the marriage was annulled. That's when he was awarded "THE WANLEY CUP" (for doing the dumbest thing on a band tour). He pretty much retained "THE WANLEY CUP" tour after tour for his tenure with the band.
He and "Captain Squirt" (Randy Purcell) had been with the Navy Commodores in Washington D.C. They introduced Jay Chattaway's writing to the band. Chattaway was also in one of the Washington service bands at the time. Jattaway brought in several charts but his four offerings for this CD were Jet, Livin' For The City, Chameleon and Superbone Meets The Badman.
CHAMELEON was brought in during the same time Herbie Hancock had his hit with THE HEADHUNTERS. It was a nice choice and got to be the title tune of the album. We played the Wichita Jazz Festival in Kansas that summer and THE HEADHUNTERS were opposite us. Herbie Hancock sat in with the band and man, THAT WAS A KICK! Of course we played CHAMELEON and Herbie funked it out. Too much!!
GOSPEL JOHN was composed and arranged by a cat named Jeff Steinberg. I had played with Jeff on Buddy DeFranco's Glenn Miller Orch. back in 1970. Jeff was a bass player but was really always persuing his first love which was writing. We recorded together at Royal Festival Hall in London England on April 20th 1970 with the G.M.O. I hadn't seen or heard anything from Jeff since that time until I joined Maynard. I believe he was hanging around Detroit trying to break into the Motown thing. He contributed several charts to the library including Nice & Juicy which was recorded by the band twice prior to these sessions. He did a beautiful tune called Sweet Rosetta which was written for a gorgeous black DJ in Detroit. She came out whenever we were in the area. It was recorded in live concerts but never in the studio. Too bad. It was a gas.
GOSPEL JOHN really got that preachin' thing goin'. I recall one time we were playing in a church and Maynard actually got up in the pulpit and played that opening. I though I'd collapse. It was hysterical, him playing with one hand and pointing at the audience with the other. Later in the chart he playes the baritone horn and used to get to marchin' around the stage. I felt like instead of being in a big band I was travelling with a PENTECOSTAL CARAVAN. When we got back in the bus we had a few tastes laughin' over that scene.
Don't know where Steinberg is now but I hope he's still writin'...HE WAS GOOD!!
THE WAY WE WERE was written by Randy "Cap'n Squirt" Purcell. He wrote it as a feature for himself and he did a nice job with it. I believe that was the only thing he wrote that was ever recorded. The "Cap'n" wrote another chart called "Let Us Spray" but it didn't see much action. JET was NEVER PLAYED AGAIN after this recording. It was a period piece and I guess we rightfully put a PERIOD on it after the session. Didn't bother any of us either that it got bagged. You could call it "FILLER". LA FIESTA was arranged by trombonist Jerry "The Hermit" Johnson. He was called "The Hermit" because he chose to never double up with anybody in hotels/motels.In short: HE WAS A LONER. This chart was initially run down at my first rehearsal with the band in January of 1974. It was funny that we would be doing this chart because Woody Herman had already recorded it and actually won a grammy for his album "Giant Steps" which included it in the program. "The Hermit" was unaware of that when he began working on his arrangement. Now dig this! A piano player from England was hired for the tour but for some reason had visa problems and couldn't make the beginning of the tour. Trumpeter Bob "Dupree" Summers had attended The Berklee School of Music in Boston and while there met Alan Zavod who was from Australia. It so happened that we began the tour in Boston so Zavod was contacted to come in and sub for the late arriving Britisher.
When we hit that chart with Zavod, Petrone, and myself, it was like an atomic bomb going off. Zavod was perfect. The funny thing about the whole thing was, Zavod had played briefly with the Glenn Miller Ghost Band and so had Rick Petrone. I had payed a couple year's dues with that band too. Teo Macero came to one of the tours early rehearsals and fell in love with the rhythm section. I remember him saying to Maynard, "I don't know what it is with this Glenn Miller Rhythm Section but they sure are makin' it"! The tardy Britisher was contacted and told to stay home. Zavod was in. LA FIESTA became a kind of Epic in live performances. It would last for twenty minutes. Petrone would open it up with an a cappella bass solo and then the band would hit. "The Hermit" would do his thing on Pump and then "Ally Wally" (Zavod) would completely unload. The proceedings would then be turned over to me and thence on to Mayonaisse. It actually took the form of a bull fight. I remember one night in performance it got pretty outrageous. At the end of the tune Maynard turned to me and said,"You may have killed that bull, but I BURIED IT"!! The version done here is much less intense than the live performances were. For the sake of time, on the original Lp release the drum solo was eliminated and the solos were shortened considerably. The message and feeling are conveyed but to have heard it live was yet another complete level of excitement. The last I heard of "The Hermit" he was residing in Toronto and appearing with Rob McConnell's Boss Brass. He was a very talented cat. At the time, I requested he do an arrangement of Joe Henderson's A Shade of Jade which he did. It was quite a chart but never got past the rehearsal stage. All that remains is my cassette tape of a rehearsal.
As a sidelight: I played this arrangement every night with Maynard for about a year and a half. I later went with Woody Herman and got to play it every night for another year and a half. I guess you could say I'm good on this chart as in "No thanks, I'M GOOD!!"
I CAN'T GET STARTED is a Pete Jackson arrangement. Pete came over with the first English band. He is not on this CD but did rejoin the band in January of 1975. Pete was a very talented writer. He really wanted to stay in the States and managed to do so with the aid of friends in the Philly area. I believe he also had a romantic interest there which further enhanced his urge to stay. Unfortunately, it was reported a few years ago that Pete had gone to his reward. I believe a heart attack took him out. Jackson was a very nice cat with a good sense of humor, a strong smoking habit and an intrepid toper. I can only speculate that the latter two attributes contributed to his untimely demise. He scored several great charts for the band. Teo Nova, Left Bank Express (both on Live at Jimmy's) and when he returned to the band in 1975 he brought a burning chart called L.A. Expression which was composed by bassist Max Bennett. Pete had played with Lynn Biviano's short lived band (a Maynard style band for sure) and Lynn did the chart as 1/2 of a 45rpm release that was the only recorded legacy of that aggregation. I wish we had recorded it with Maynard. All that remains is my cassette tape of the chart during a live performance.
I CAN'T GET STARTED was a great feature for Mayonaisse since Bunny Berigan was an early idol and Maynard actually gets to tip his hat to Bunny as well as a nod to his former boss, Stan Kenton. Linda Lovelace??...well I don't know from where that allusion emanates but it always got a laugh. Another interesting thing about this chart is that Dennis "Iggy" Noday gets to play lead trumpet in the section. He had been initially hired to play lead trumpet with the band after having come off a five year stint with the Kenton band. He got sick immediately at the beginning of the tour so Stanley "Wanley" Mark took over on lead and KEPT IT!! "Iggy" was a strong player and really sounds solid on this chart but of course Mayo comes in on the change of key and completely UNLOADS!! I used to love to lay into that out chorus. It was good fun for a drummer to set up those figures. Armand Zildjian (the late owner of the Zildjian cymbal company) loved the chart soooo much that he had it memorized. I remember one night at Johnny Yee's in Yarmouth, Massachussetts Armand was in attendance with his CEO, Lennie DiMuzio. Armand was known to take a drink now & then. On this night he was particularly well into his cups. When we hit that out chorus he virtually beat up Lennie at the front table mimicking my every drum fill. Poor Lennie. I think he must have been pretty black & blue the following day.
LIVIN' FOR THE CITY was another Chattaway chart. Stevie Wonder had the hit at the time. It was fun to play. I recall doing a couple takes of it and they were OK but I wasn't quite gettin' into it enough. From the engineering booth Teo told me in my phones to "LAY INTO IT"!! I did and took a bit of a chance on that drum break. It worked (the band was holding their breath) and when the take was over Teo said, "Yeah Danny, that was it, come on into the booth and have a taste and we'll play it back." No more takes were needed. Lynn "Little Lord Lynfield" Nicholson gets to shine on this one with his high notes. He was an amazing find who had come to the band from "CHASE", the high energy jazz rock band lead by trumpeter Bill Chase.
"Little Lord Lynfield" used to floor the crowds with an 11 bar section of MacArthur Park where he screamed his brains out. It was definitely a SHOCK & AWE effect. The last I knew of his whereabouts was Las Vegas. Bruce Johnstone quickly became Bruce "Badman" Johnstone on the CHAMELEON BAND. SUPERBONE MEETS THE BADMAN closes the program and was originally entitled "Lowerglyphics" but since it featured Maynard's Superbone and the Badman on baritone the logical title became "SUPERBONE MEETS THE BADMAN". I remember it being the first tune up at 8:00AM for the second session. Man, it was rough gettin' it going. The lights in the studio were bright as hell and we couldn't seem to get jump started. After a couple of aborted takes I yelled into the booth and asked to have the lights turned down a bit. After that we got a good take. "The Badman" and I were to be reunited on Woody Herman's Band in 1976-77. He is still very active in music residing in western New York State. Clinics for Selmer and concert appearances are very much a part of his routine.
Bob "Dupree" Summers went on to do a 5 year stint with the Count Basie Orch. Today he lives in the Los Angeles area and records with Bill Holman and performs with many of the area big bands including that of Bob Florence.
Dennis "Iggy" Noday established roots in Florida where he fronts his own big band in the Miami area. Randy "Cap'n Squirt" Purcell divides his time now between being a stock broker and trombone player in Pittsburgh. Andy "Mean" Mackintosh returned to London after giving L.A. a try. He is one of London's busiest reed players.
Brian "Hardbop" Smith returned to New Zealand and is still active in the New Zealand jazz scene. Alan "Ally Wally" Zavod became a member of Jean Luc Ponty's band after leaving Maynard. He did some writing for movies but as of late little is known of his whereabouts. Rick Petrone became a successful D.J. in Connecticut and still continues playing local jazz gigs. I went on to play with Woody Herman's Band and eventually landed the house band gig at Eddie Condon's in NYC. I formed a band called THE METROPOLITAN BOPERA HOUSE but was sued by the Metropolitan Opera House. I formed my own Big Band called Danny D'Imperio's Big Band Bloviation and recorded a CD for Rompin' Records in 2001 featuring Barry Harris on piano along with other top New York jazz players. As for Stanley "Wanley" Mark, rumor has it that a marriage is pending to a female bugler in the Goose Bay Labrador All Girl Drum & Bugle Corp because she is thought to be in possession of Maynard's original cornet mouthpiece
THE CHAMELEON BAND was a very exciting period for The Maynard Ferguson Orch. in that it was really the beginning of its acceptance in the U.S. and launched the band into a new era. Bigger hits were to follow such as *ROCKY* and *PAGLIACCI*.
Maynard Ferguson is an on going entity and even in 2003 at a youthful 75 he is virtually UNSTOPPABLE. Danny D'Imperio (April 2003)