Spindale, NC. October 13, 2001.
Well, my outdoor gig got canceled because of rain - so, I find myself having time to write this sooner than I thought. With the exception of the amount of volume we had to deal with in the crowd, it was an incredible concert last night by Maynard Ferguson and the Big Bop Nouveau Big Band. First, I was volunteering with the Lenoir-Rhyne Jazz Ensemble yesterday afternoon in Hickory at Oktoberfest and was reasonably happy with that performance, piled immediately in the car and made the 1.15 hour trek to the concert in 1 hour (traffic was light :). Running up the door, we were greeted by a man with 2 tickets he had to give away, so we took them; waltzed in to 10th row dead center seats. The crowd was light, but very enthusiastic. MF and some of the band members had done a clinic with a local high school earlier in the day, and there were many screaming kids in the hall to pump up The Boss and the band. The band did two sets, ending the concert proper with the MF Hit Medley and using One More Trip to Birdland as the encore.
MF looked chipper, energetic, and seemed full of energy the whole concert. He seems to be playing more and more these days than I was used to hearing in the early 90's and is playing more "jazz" along with the range pyrotechnics he is very famous for (and yes, Marvin, I am unabashedly overly enamored with the trumpet's high range). MF was strong and even more solid than I had heard him in July in Asheville, though this concert seems to feel early in the tour. He got ahold of MANY double A's, several of which just made me want to go home and practice more! What an inspiration! An announcement before the concert touted that the newest CD recorded by him and the band, "Swingin' For Shuur" with 2 time Grammy winner Diane Shuur had made it to #12 on the Billboard charts and is currently the 15th best selling album on Amazon.com . Who says you're finished at 65? BAH! MF is still going strong and carrying the torch for jazz all across the world at age 74(?), nine months a year. The concert opened (of course after the Blue Birdland intro) with a "horns only" rendition of the Star Spangled Banner in which MF seared to a double C near the end (like some of us have always wanted to hear - and a few of us have probably even done :). Very nice tribute to the US from the Canadian born MF.
Since this is the TPIN list, I'll take a couple moments to talk about Rich Willey. For those of you who were, like me, asking yourself if this guy can actually play, let me assure you - HE PLAYS! Rich was a soloist several times during the concert and came out with well-thought ideas and an individual style that shows he is his own player. His sound was free, and seemed to have no problem getting the trumpet to convey the ideas he had. The guy is the real deal - so you young players (and cb players) take note when he posts to TPIN! He is out there doing it! The hall was dead, so I had trouble hearing the individual members of the band well during soli sections, but Rich seemed to be holding his own with some challenging stuff!
Also, I need to mention Patrick Hession. I was really impressed with him this summer, but last night as the night wore on, he kept pouring it on more and more. During the medley, he came out and played "the lick" from MacPark and nailed a BIG paint-peeling A at the end that would have made the old man himself proud. I honestly have not heard him play with that breadth of sound before that point and it was quite breath taking. Those of us who have stood on stage and played that piece know everything that runs through our minds about that piece anyway - My hat's off to ya Patrick! Fine, solid, swingin lead playing the whole night.
Pete Ferguson, the man of many hats doesn't get much of a chance to shine as a player, and maybe he should get some spotlight. Pete seems to be kinda the chief cook and bottle washer for the tour. He runs the tour, makes sure the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed. Runs out at intermission and after the show to sell the T-shirt's and deal with the MF Fanaddicts. The times that I knew he was on top of the sound, he sounded great - the rest of the time, he did his job as a section player seemingly without flaw! Great Job Pete!
Now to the non trumpet side.... The player that impressed me the most was the pianist, Jeff Lashway. There were several times that he exhibited both ideas and chops that were just staggering. He was at times wonderfully refreshing and inventive where a lot of jazz piano players leave me cold and wanted more. I have now seen him with the band twice, and this was a more impressive showing than the last (and I love being more impressed the second time :). Reggie Watkins was allowed to shine on many occasions as both a trombonist and arranger. Watkins is a greatly talented individual with a personal flair and command of the trombone that makes almost easy to forget that he didn't play trumpet :) Solos by saxophonists Mike Dubaniewicz and Stephan Krammerer were also very tasteful, inventive and exciting!
Overall a wonderful evening of music and it is always great to see MF doing what he does in his inimitable fashion.
Go see them when they
are in your town. Support live music where you live! Live is better!