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Maynard Ferguson Album Reviews - Storm

From Downbeat; December 1983.

Rating: 1 Star

[Note: This was actually a double review of MF's Storm, and Marvin Stamm's "Stammpede". Stammpede received 2 stars.]

Sorry, all you MF and MS fans, but I found both of these albums boring! I kept asking myself as I listened, particularly to Maynard Ferguson, how can something that seems so exciting, be so dull? And while I don't exactly know the answer to that, the following comments may shed a little light on this phenomenon.

Naturally, Maynard dominates his big band throughout the entire album, and I noticed one or two excellent moments that could have been expanded had the soloists been given more space. For example, there was an all-too-short piano workout by Ron Pedley in an interesting arrangement of Duke Ellington's Take The A Train, and I could definitely have heard more of Denis DiBlasio's rugged baritone saxophone in his one featured spot on Sesame Street.

Additionally, there's some pretty brass writing by trombonist Chris Braymen on one tune, and some of the other arrangements by Nick Lane, DiBlasio, or Gary Lindsay could have been more effective with more soloists featured. The general tone of Maynard's band, however, is rather raunchy and rarely sensitive.

An attempt at sensitivity seemed to be made with an old standard, As Time Goes By, with a totally unexpected vocal by Ferguson. For someone who's generally so on-key on trumpet, the same cannot be said for his vocal instrument - and did I detect some off-key brass in there, too? I just hope this was done in fun - tongue-in-cheek instead of horn!

Marvin Stamm's trumpet and flugelhorn work is somewhat more imaginative than Ferguson's, and less frenetic. In an oddly paradoxical way, Stamm is more controlled and yet looser than Ferguson, seeming not to be trying quite so hard to reach those pinnacles of sound. The compositions on Stamm's first album in 15 years are interesting and varied. Masque Afrique has an intriguing 12/8 rhythm, with some better-than-average percussion from Sue Evans. I found the synthesizer somewhat out of character, but then I haven't been in Africa lately!

Another track, Carnevale, offers a kind of reggae beat, reminiscent of the Caribbean. The synthesizer is used more characteristically and with better effect on By Torchlight, a slow, pensive piece, also featuring Stamm on flugelhorn, and some good ensemble writing. All the tunes were written and arranged by the band's synthesist Chris Palmaro with Jack Cortner, who does not appear on the album. Despite the presence of such better known names as bassist Marcus Miller, trombonist Jim Pugh, baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber, and guitarist John Tropea, this album also comes off rather ho-hum and is not something I would want to put back on my turntable.

-frankie nemko