M.F.'s Rules of the Road
Originally printed in the June 5, 1975 issue of Down Beat.
By Herb Nolan.
The Butler Coach with the Maynard Ferguson band pulled out of Chicago at 8 a.m., heading for Fort Wayne, Indiana an hour earlier than necessary: someone incorrectly believed there was an hour's time difference between Illinois and Indiana. It was just as well. The extra hour was spent groping through the city of Fort Wayne and its environs looking for the Elmhurst High School Jazz Festival and stage band competition where the M.F. band, short on sleep and food, was scheduled for two afternoon clinics and an evening concert. It would end up a 19-hour day.
"Are you going to mention the whole band in your article?" someone from a group of Maynard's sidemen asked after a meal of ham salad sandwiches and chili, catered from the Elmhurst high school cafeteria - it was also after Ferguson had retired to the privacy of another schoolroom to warm up, his regular routine before playing.
"Are you going to use our nicknames? The band is built around those names, Maynard uses them in his introductions." Sure, why not. They went down the roster:
Bruce "Badman" Johnstone, baritone, flute; Brian "Hard Bop" Smith, tenor; Andy "Mean" MacIntosh, alto sax; Randy "Capt. Squirt" Purcell and Keith "K.O." O'Quinn, trombones; Pete "Jason" Jackson, keyboards; Rich "Et Tu" Petrone, bass; Dan "Animal Rock" D'Imperio, drums; Bob "Dupree" Summers, Joe "The Loon" Mossello, Dennis "Ignatius" Noday, Ernie "Burning Funk" Garside, and section leader Stan Mark, trumpets; and Maynard "The Lip" Ferguson, also known to the rest of the band as "Mayonnaise."
No longer the all-British group it once was but still a foreign corporation, the Maynard Ferguson band has changed, going through personnel in the routine way most big bands do. On this tour, it carried people like Pete Jackson, who'd been in the first English group that had come from England in 1968. He'd been off the road recently, however, playing living and "getting his head together" in Philadelphia. Also from the first band was Brian Smith who, in addition to working with Maynard, has been associated with composer Michael Gibbs and the English group called Nucleus.
On the newer side were Bob Summers from Woody Herman; Dennis Noday, formerly leader of Stan Kenton's trumpet section; Randy Purcell, from the Glenn Miller band under Buddy DeFranco, and drummer D'Imperio, who had worked with Gap Mangione. After 15 months with Maynard Ferguson, D'Imperio was leaving after the tour to form a rock group called Palmer's Steamed Clams. "It's going to be animal rock," he said one day, "I'll come out with whips, dressed in a leopard skin outfit and start the concerts by whipping the drums - really, no lie."
"Now if you want to talk about the music," said a guy in the band, "we've got a pint of whiskey and some wine left, and I imagine if you come to the back of the bus about one o'clock in the morning you could get some really heavy shit."
The Maynard Ferguson band - everyone including managers Ernie and Don Garside, Maynard's daughter and traveling secretary Kim, and probably even bus driver Bernie ("The Bolt"), who's been the M.F. driver for three years - was showing signs of wear. After being on the road for almost two-and-a-half months and within five days and five concerts of taking a three-week vacation before starting out again in Palo Alto, the musicians were yielding to creeping exhaustion.
You might say that despite intense togetherness, it was like the microcosm of a marriage breaking up. A percentage of the bus's captive population of 16 was uptight, grumbling, and mildly rebellious in the confines of a fairly predictable daily grind. Frequently gripped by hysterical laughter, captivated by trivial diversions created during the long rides and short hotel room nights between concerts, the musicians were randomly angry like summer lightning. They were a typical big band on the road, living in a world of music and franchise foods were men often lust after a Kentucky Fried Chicken breast.
"It's the long jumps between concerts that burn it out of you," said Bruce Johnstone. "There's been a lot of sickness on this tour, too, which hasn't helped either." Keith O'Quinn, for instance, had arrived in Chicago with a 104 degree temperature and tonsils that looked like abscessed prunes.
Maynard Ferguson, 47, a man who has led touring bands since 1957, was also showing the effects of the ten week tour. In Fort Wayne, lacking sleep and dealing with a sore mouth after back-to-back clinics during which he demonstrates the art of hitting the upper register of his horn, he had trouble at the evening concert making a high note break on Elton John's Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me. His lips had whipped back from the horn's V-cup mouth as if it was electrically charged, and with an exaggerated wave he cued the brass section, then leaned toward the reeds saying, "It's going to be a tough night." On the bus he spent most of the hours dozing, slouched in the first row aisle seat opposite the driver's side.
The Ferguson band had arrived in Chicago two nights before Fort Wayne after a high school concert in Crete, Ill. Before that it had been Scottsburg, Indiana; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; and Florida. Florida had seen the usual one-nighters at clubs and schools, except for a week's stay at the University of Miami.
"We're the first band to do that, and it turned out sensationally," said Ferguson later, explaining they'd done clinics and concerts throughout the week. "We go back next year at the height of the season for two weeks -two weeks in Miami Beach is some sort of Shangri-La for a traveling musician."
But Shangri-La was past at this point, and when I got on the band bus in Chicago late one Friday afternoon, they were headed for McHenry High School in a semi-rural, agricultural community about 40 miles away. The next day would be Fort Wayne and back to Chicago (a 400-mile round trip), then Rock Island, Illinois and back again (another 400-mile trip). It was a typical itinerary.
"If we let Willard Alexander, our American agent, have his way we could be on the road every day of the year," said Maynard in Fort Wayne. "It's no longer a problem of getting enough gigs. We're past that. What I do now is go ten weeks and take three weeks off. It may vary - like 11 and three or nine and three - but you really need that break because it's all one-nighters."
McHenry was the only concert of the three that wasn't packed to the walls, the gymnasium with row upon row of folding chairs was about two-thirds filled.
Afterwards Ferguson grumbled about bad promotion, recalling that the last time he'd come through, they'd played another area high school and drawn 5,000.
Big crowd or small, Maynard and the band did what they do so well - turn everybody on.
The concert at McHenry was essentially the same as the others. As Don Garside announced, "Ladies And Gentleman, MAYNARD FERGUSON," the band was already playing the opening number, Maynard moved swiftly from the wings, trusting his silver horn into the air in salute. Reaching center stage, he planted his feet, arched his back, and put his trumpet to his mouth, pointing it up and out over the crowd. With a cue, the brass section came in; and Maynard rode over it with those high, adrenalin-charged notes. The crowd was hooked.
The music each night included tunes from the Chameleon album: the title tune, La Fiesta, Superbone Meets the Badman, The Way We Were, and I Can't Get Started. Then tunes planned for a future album, Elton John's Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me, Fruit of the Loon, and L.A. Expression. A taste of MacArthur Park would turn up as an introduction to the second half of the show, divided by a short intermission during which the band changes from yellow to red shirts.
From the beginning, when he comes out in a black satin coat (that gets discarded midway through the second tune) covering a light print shirt open at the chest, Maynard is either playing, pausing to listen, or moving - popping his fingers, mugging, giving the band thumbs-up, at times almost dancing, draining all the energy he has brought to the stage.
The concert closes with Slide Hampton's Got The Spirit, featuring a long and often inspired solo introduction from Johnstone on baritone. And if people aren't already jumping up and down, the last number, Hey Jude, with the brass section filing into the audience to play the refrain back at the rest of the band, has them on their feet screaming for more.
Maynard waves, takes some bows, and is gone. There are rarely encores.
If the schedule isn't too tight, the band lingers to sign autographs - often hearing declarations of love from teenage girls. There are, one discovers, Maynard Ferguson band groupies.
On nights when time is short and the musicians tired, everyone disappears with mercurial cunning into the dark, smoky interior of the bus. Everyone that is, except bassist Petrone, who goes to work in front of the bandstand selling 8 x 10 glossies of Maynard Ferguson at 50 cents each.
Without a doubt, the M.F. Band is among the most popular and commercially successful jazz groups in the world. It can command as much as $4,000 a concert and gets and additional $500 for a clinic. Maynard pays his musicians' lodging and the members of his group make good money - not as much as a super rock group, but enough to keep from going in debt and starving.
"Economically we've been doing very well," Maynard began over dinner in Fort Wayne before the evening concert. "Things have worked out nicely for me in a strange way, I suppose. In 1967, when I broke up the American band, packed that way, and took my wife and children to England and India, I didn't think there was an American market for what I was doing. That was one of the problems I had, with no new audiences. I hate to use the word 'stuck,' but it does apply in the sense that it got to be 'play Maria one thousand more times, Maynard I found that unbearable - mind you it's a great arrangement, I just use it as an example. I think getting away from America gave me a chance to destroy my cookie stamp."
Picking up and leaving came almost ten years from the time Maynard Ferguson put his first band together. "That was the 'Birdland-Newport' era, because we played 14 to 16 weeks a year and Birdland and did the Newport Festival nine or ten years in a row," he recalled, adding that the Roulette album Maynard Ferguson at Newport was one of his favorites from the old band.
"You see, I was the maniac who gave up what used to be considered the hip gig. I was under contract to Paramount Pictures in Hollywood and I walked out after a little more than three years. Everybody said, 'you must be insane,' when I told them I was walking out to start a big band - god, they couldn't believe it. But three years later, man, there were no more contract orchestras in any of the major studios. That was the beginning of the 'movie revolution' so to speak, and the end of the major studio star system as well as the so-called 'dream gig.' But, you know, I found the dream gig boring.
"I was the trumpet player with Paramount: I was very highly paid at a rate that had been established 15 years before and was based on 44 pictures a year. Well, things were changing. It took three years to make The Ten Commandments, but we did the score in five days. It was a joke. I averaged three-and-a-half hours of work a week for three-and-a-half years, during which I was highly overpaid. There were all kinds of fringe benefits, and I wasn't allowed to work for any other studio or on television or radio. I couldn't make records. During that period, I've always said, I leaned how to play golf and almost forgot how to play the trumpet."
After leading bands for almost a decade, Maynard succumbed to the personal and economic pressures of trying to keep a big band going during a period where they had become an anachronism. So Ferguson dropped out, becoming, in a way, another musician in exile. "The way my mind was working, America seemed an insane place in those particular years to try and raise five children."
After leaving the U.S., Maynard toured Scandinavia and England with an English group he eventually disbanded. At that point, he took his family to southern India, ostensibly to get another view of life. He says he did some of his best and most original writing there.
Maynard eventually returned to England with big bands still in his blood. In Manchester, there was a place called Club 43 operated by Ernie Garside. Garside brought Maynard in as a single with a pickup band that developed into sort of a rehearsal group. It was then he made the first M.F. Horn album.
"I was doing the record for CBS-London. Columbia in New York heard it and they were really knocked out. Personally, at the time, I couldn't understand where the people would be that would be knocked out by it. But in the years of my absence, of course, the total success of Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chicago, as well as a lot of other groups, had changed the situation a great deal. Today I think the public has gotten even hipper. It's the whole revolution thing we've gone through - some of it subtle, some things (like Watergate) unsubtle, and things like the black revolution both subtle and unsubtle - most of it I agree with."
With a big band jazz album making it commercially, Maynard brought his first English band to the United States, and what he found was a new young audience augmented by his older fans.
"Our success has a lot to do with the young people, and yet somehow we haven't lost the old people. I'll tell you, Herb, it's a strange thing, you get asked questions like Maynard, where do you feel music is heading today?' Man, I don't think any artist plans where it's heading. Certainly if I wanted to make a dynamite business move with a muzak corporation, that would be a planned music move.
"You know, Krishnamurti (his spiritual advisor) has a philosophy that deals with going through life as an observer. It tends to freak people out a little bit, it makes you think of being totally turned off, but it isn't being turned off at all. What it is, is not being anxious, uptight, and striving. Just observing. If I hear a tune that I think I can do something with - I don't really care if it's Sonny Rollins or Elton John - I make a move. It's just a question of playing music that makes you feel good and turns other people on. It's mostly sitting back and making a move. But even then you're an observer because it occurs to you.
"The thing I've tried to do in this whole venture since coming back to America, is to cut up the boredom part of a big band. The day of the hype doesn't work with kids - they should get a medal for that one. Of course, they go for that other hype, but it's an obvious one; it's called fantasy. That comes before they learn that the real fantasy is the music. The purist mystic art in the world is instrumental music, and the most mystical thing is unintelligible sound communicated between people, which is what music is - it is unintelligible, it's the hardest thing for someone to write about, especially when I don't sing I Can't Get Started." Maynard laughed.
"I try to do as many today attitudes in the music as I feel it's healthy to do. I don't mean that last part as a restriction, but as a plus. I don't really want to be 'today' just for the sake of being 'today.' But I enjoy change and I enjoy having proved that to the people who like my old bands. Oh, they'll still ask for Stella By Starlight or something like that, and they'll never quite understand when I tell them I love it. It really blows their minds because they think if I don't play it, I must hate the tune.
"The thing is, I don't like to impose the music of an older band onto the younger players of today's band anymore than it would be suitable to take today's basic book, hire the old band, and impose that music on them. The band I have now," Maynard added, "is a nice mixture of the new and old players."
Randy Purcell, who comes from Pittsburgh, spoke later about arranging for the band. His chart of The Way We Were is on the Chameleon album. "You have to be aware of what Maynard is looking for in the context of what else is happening in the band. There are a lot of charts that might be good musically, but not in the groove. I don't want to say 'in the style of the band,' because Maynard never wants to have a set style; but in a sense he already does. One of the obvious problems in writing for this band is the instrumentation; it's a little strange with three saxes, five trumpets and two bones. In many ways you can't write as full. It's easy to write for a band with five trumpets, five bones and five saxophones, because there are more pieces at your disposal. It's hard to get the same effect from the small sections. The Way We Were was different," he added, "because it was a pretty dark chart tonally and it was in contrast with everything we were doing at the time, which is why I wrote it."
Back in Fort Wayne, Maynard had talked about the way he relates as a leader. "Every band, once it gets together, sooner or later emanates the personality of its leader. If you think of Ellington, Basie, or Kenton their bands are them, although I think I have more fun," said Ferguson, who considers himself more of a performing leader with an obligation to the variety of instruments he plays rather than, say, a creator of compositions for his bands.
"The spirit of the band forms the basis for compliments that we usually get, and I'm sure that's the contagious thing I have to offer. You know, when the band's really cooking, I'm the best customer in the joint. I've got the best seat and when I'm not playing I'm listening just like everybody else. But I also know what I want to do with the tunes - they're really not played the same way every night. Sometimes the differences are subtle and sometimes outrageously unsubtle."
The subject of pride came up. "The pride thing," said Maynard, "has to be two-way in the band: first it's each member's personal pride, and then it's what the band is as a whole. Some attach a lot of it to where they came from, others could care less, it depends on where their heads are at as individuals at that point. It amazes me though, that when we get to every small town in America, and when if we arrive early enough, they're running around to these funny little local record shops to see if they can find old albums of the band. The first ones they ask for are Hollywood Party, Finger Snappin' and Dimensions, all the really hard to get records from when we first recorded. Of course those include some heavy people like Ray Brown, Clark Terry, Clifford Brown, people like that."
Another part of Maynard Ferguson and his music is his involvement in the design of instruments. Ferguson, who presently works for Holton/LeBlanc in Kenosha, Wisconsin, got into designing with a British band corporation during his stay in England. Designing, he says, is mostly trial and error and experimentation involving lots of craftsmen. "It's like designing acoustics for a symphony hall, nobody knows until the orchestra hits on opening night whether the guy who designed the really made it."
For the McHenry concert, Sandy Sandberg, vice-president of product development for Horton/LeBlanc, had brought a prototype of a trumpet design Maynard was working on. Ferguson had it put on the band stand without trying out the instrument. Towards the end of the set he grabbed this new horn for the introduction to I Can't Get Started, and he couldn't play it. Wow! His mind was racing: Christ, what's this? I can't even play my new design? Actually, there had been an error, the wrong trumpet was mistakenly picked up at the factory and brought to McHenry. At the conclusion of the evening Sandberg headed home with the bogus horn tucked under his arm.
Perhaps the most visible instrument that Maynard has produced is the Superbone. "That's an idea I've had all my life, the valve and the slide trombone should all be one unit. You should be able to play the valve with your right hand and the slide with your left simultaneously. In addition, I can change the key of my slide trombone by pressing any number of valve combinations: or I can change the key of my valve trombone by changing the position of my slide.
"One of the finest symphony trombone players just bought a Superbone. Now, that's a totally different performance market. People are beginning to understand that this is a revolutionary instrument designed for all trombone players. When I first got into the Superbone, the first thing I said was, 'I can't wait for someone to come along who can play it better than me.' Although it's the instrument he improvises on most and the one he calls his favorite, Maynard says he does not devote much time to practicing it.
Then there are the trumpets, specifically the M.F. Horn 468, 60 percent zinc and 40 percent copper, the brass combination that rings best, says Ferguson. The horn is, through and through, one of the largest trumpets in the world. Some members of the Ferguson brass section use it and some don't. In between is Dennis Noday, who commented at one point that as a band leader, Maynard had more understanding and sympathy for brass player problems than most other leaders. Noday's trumpet is half Yamaha with an M.F. bell.
"The bore of my horn," said Ferguson, "has a tremendous taper. For that reason, some of my brass players tell me it's very difficult to get mutes to fit. If somebody else uses the mute for even a week it will fall right back out of the M.F. 468 because the forks are squeezed up. The larger bell," he explains, "spreads the sound, but not in a dull way. It's not a dark sound with a brightness..."
The following day in the hotel coffee shop some of the band were grabbing a late breakfast before leaving for Rock Island. They never know when they might get a chance to eat. Was it time for the "heavy shit?"
I sat down with Bruce Johnstone, a baritone player who placed third in the 1974 Down Beat Readers Poll and has been with Maynard Ferguson for two-and-a-half years. Prior to that, he'd worked with various rhythm sections in Copenhagen as well as with Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Horace Parlan, and Neils Henning. I asked him about playing in the reed section and the music in general.
"I find that I'm playing at a higher volume level than I've ever played before," he said. At the clinic the day before Johnstone told the kids a reed lasts him three days. "I have to match my volume with the trombones because I'm written in with them a lot, although we don't actually play together as a section except for about eight bars here and there. The most elaborate writing is for the brass. An exception, I should add, is a new thing we have by Jeff Steinberg, it's a real laid-back blues written especially for this instrumentation and it makes the band sound huge. It's a really good tune, but we don't play it."
"The whole band," Johnstone continued, "is basically geared to sell albums; so consequently most of the stuff we are doing is from the M.F. Horn 4 Plus 5 and Chameleon albums, along with whatever new things we're working on. It's sort of a violent band, and Maynard goes for crowd reaction perhaps more than any other bandleader. The whole evening starts out at a high intensity level and builds. Maynard understands the emotional needs of young Americans," he said without sarcasm. "I think he has a definite success formula going. At the moment we generally play about nine or ten tunes a night, and there's probably about 12 basic numbers that we use, not many more. I guess the book we're carrying now has 30 to 40 tunes.
"But I'll tell you, I worked with him once in a quintet situation in Italy. We were there with the big band and the promoters got so enthusiastic they booked another week without telling anybody. All the other cats had commitments in England, so Maynard held onto the rhythm section and me and we did the week of concerts. The group played a whole bunch of off-the-wall tunes, and it was really quite good. For example, we played some things with fluegelhorn and baritone - I don't think he's played that instrument for a while - that were really roaring because they're both such dark instruments, and for ballad things it was quite beautiful."
"The band musically?" said Peter Jackson sliding into the booth across from Johnstone and bassist Petrone, "yeah, musically I don't think the band is as good as it used to be - nowhere near as good as it used to," he repeated, referring to the MacArthur Park band.
"I don't think some of the arrangements he's gettin' are that good," he continued, "it's the ordinary sort of thing, and there's not a lot to play. I mean, if you want a bit more of a challenge, you know, then you better play different tunes. We're doing the same thing every night, the same format, it's unbearable after a while because you can't do anything else - everything's a format at these gigs.
"You can't open the tunes up for more solo space," interjected Petrone, "because then you take the opportunity of doing another big number. If too many solos are put in a given number then we would be playing only five or six tunes. MacArthur Park is a great example. During the last tour, the tune was 15 to 20 minutes long - and sometimes longer, depending on who he pointed at to take a solo. Now it's down to a one-minute walk-on.
"We used to have a chart in the book called L-Dopa that was a 12-minute album track and it used to run 45 minutes on stage," added Johnstone.
"La Fiesta is getting that way," mused Jackson, who along with Petrone and D'Imperio gets a featured solo on the Chick Corea composition. "The music we're doing now, it's all bash, bash, bash, the faster, the wilder the better," Pete continued, getting slightly agitated. "You can put this down in the story too, man: I could get fired but that's all right. It's all bash, bash, bash, loud, loud, faster than fast. And it's a drag. I mean, there's more to music than that - there is to me anyway. Of course the people we're playing for aren't going to go crazy and jump onto their feet for a nice Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Charlie's Born type chart, which to me is beautiful music. But they will get up and scream and scream for Hey, Jude, which to me isn't music, at least the way we play it isn't, the way we do it it's nothing.
"Of course if you just want to work, make more bread, and get people going berserk for music that isn't that great, well that's another thing. But if you have any sensitivity as a musician...the music we're doing is not getting it.
"I've seen kids at these concerts and all they're waiting for is a double high C from Maynard Once he's hit it, that's made their night. Everything else that goes on doesn't matter - so what kind of people are we trying to play for?" Jackson asked rhetorically.
"Of course, this is the first exposure to a big band that a lot of these people have had," said Johnstone, "and hopefully they'll go and listen to other people as well."
"Listen," said Jackson, relaxing a bit, "I wouldn't mind going in there and doing a concert playing rock all the time and knocking the people out if it was as good as what people like Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears used to put out. But to me it isn't as good - but it's successful, so there you go...
"There's a very pretty chart in the book," Johnstone continued, "called Sweet Rosetta. It's very subtle, has nice lines and good voicing and we don't play it because it gets less than a berserk audience reaction...It's very good, well-played, and the band digs it.
"Maynard plays it safe and because he plays it safe, he knows he'll get a reaction from the people," added Jackson.
"One of the guys in the band, Bob Summers, is a mother of a trumpet player," Johnstone continued, "and for two years he's been playing two choruses of Lady Be Good. Occasionally, he gets to play a B-flat blues. But that's all he plays - here's an incredibly talented trumpet player going to waste."
"Personally, I would be more included to play the epics and the crowd pleasers," said Jackson, "because that's what they want to hear. But in the meantime, throw in some really good, hip things and try to educate the people a bit more. I mean, if all they're going to hear is Hey, Jude, and that's all they're getting their rocks off on, it's nowhere."
"That's where Maynard's original band was at," Johnstone said. "They used to play for dances and then say, 'Hey, now we're going to play some of the things we dig and then play some jazz.' That was a great idea at the time because Maynard played for a large and wide audience, and it made them aware of some other big band music - it would be kind of nice if that was done again. Just take the music a step further."
"I dig the rock thing as much as anyone when it's played well and you've got something to do in it," Jackson continued as he leaned forward, "but I would just as soon play a wider variety of music to keep me interested instead of the same solos and soloists every night. Got The Spirit is one of the first charts I played back in 1968, and he's still playing it. I'm not on an ego trip, I don't want to solo every tune, I just want to hear different music. There's enough music there - different music, better music."
"It runs in a pattern," said Petrone, who recently published an article in Guitar Player magazine on playing in the M.F. rhythm section. "Everybody gets a certain tune that they play on. Pete, Danny and I get a moment on La Fiesta, which is a similar moment each night. Bruce's moment is on Got The Spirit. We are all expected to be creative, if that's the word, all the time on the same tune."
"Seven days a week, it's kind of rough," added Johnstone, "that's why on the front of Got The Spirit, I try to change the beginning as much as possible so lethargy doesn't set in for me and the rhythm section."
The impromptu discussion broke up as movement around the bus signaled the band's impending departure. The M.F. Band members moved sluggishly, with programmed resolve, to the coach. Over its door was a sheet of paper listing the month's concerts - all but three had been crossed out.
Although I'd only been riding the band bus for two days, it was apparent the opinions voiced by Jackson and Johnstone were shared by other members of the band as well, some in fact were far more vitriolic. On the other hand, they were the kind of opinions that turn up naturally, in one form or another, in most band situations. Maynard could probably dig it, having been in the business as long as he has.
The trip to Rock Island, a small industrial town along the Mississippi River, was like the others, an incidental trip to another high school concert. Maynard, Kim and the Garsides sat in the first row of seats, lead trumpeter Mark sat behind them, and the remainder of the band spread itself out toward the rear of the coach. Some slept, others played cards, one worked on a music chart, while the rest listened to a tape of Cannonball In New York, (an old Blue Note session) on a Sony tape machine.
At the high school a large sign in a front window read "MAYNARD". As the coach slowed and Don Garside, road map in hand, peered out the window, a man in a checkered suit ran out and waved the bus down a steep, narrow drive to a rear entrance. It had started to rain.
The gymnasium was packed with kids and adults of all ages, and a very good high school stage band was playing. "The Maynard Ferguson band has arrived," a P.A. voice announced. The crowd cheered.
The M.F. Band, which carries its own sound system, set up with practical efficiency, and the concert started right on schedule. The program, with a 10 or 15-minute intermission, lasts about two hours.
During Rich Petrone's long, unaccompanied bass solo on La Fiesta, drummer D'Imperio left his traps, went to the back of the bandstand, and sat down with his back to the orchestra. He'd told me at one point that when he was 13 or 14 years old, his father used to take him to Birdland to see the Maynard Ferguson band along with the other groups that played there. His biggest dream as a kid had been to play with Maynard, he said, and now in two days, and after a little more than a year with the band, he was leaving.
With Hey, Jude, the crowd was once again giving the Maynard Ferguson band a standing ovation - the concert was finished. Petrone went to work selling pictures of Maynard The rest made hasty retreat to the back of the bus or worked to load the equipment back on the coach. It wasn't quite 10 p.m. and there were hopes for an early return to Chicago.
Perhaps there'd be time to catch Dizzy Gillespie's last set at the Jazz Medium across from the hotel. The rain, however, had turned both sides of that steep, curving driveway into vicious, tire-sucking mud. To make things more difficult, the road abutted the school's brick wall at one point. It took another hour of maneuvering before Bernie got the long motor coach out. As he reached the street, a loving cheer went up: "ALLLLLRRRRRIGHT, BOLT."
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