Thanks for your wonderful appreciation of Maynard Ferguson. In many ways, Ferguson transcended jazz and big bands. His high-octane enthusiasm and optimism captured the spirit of an entire generation of post-war Americans who believed anything and everything was possible and that the only way to go was flat out. Despite Maynard’s massive musical ego, he never made anyone feel badly and encouraged everyone he encountered to be better–as a person and as a musician.
One of my favorite Maynard appearances wasn’t an appearance at all. That’s Ferguson (and Sal Salvador) playing on Kenton’s “Invention for Guitar and Trumpet” in the film Blackboard Jungle (1955), which is heard just before the high school thugs smash their teacher’s prized jazz platters. The clash between the generations in this camp film was somewhat prescient given that the rock culture ultimately would wind up “smashing” the entire jazz scene some 10 years later. What’s especially fascinating is that Maynard’s energy level and prowess in “Invention” and Bill Haley’s intensity in “Rock Around the Clock” (the film’s opening theme) aren’t that different. Both are generational clarion calls. Here, in this film, you can actually hear the continental divide where jazz and rock/r&b met, and Maynard was there. There, before your eyes, the adult appreciation of virtuosity gives way to the teenage demand for a big beat. I often wondered what Maynard thought of Blackboard Jungle.
Regarding the “hen’s teeth” Maynard Ferguson Mosaic box and the entire Roulette catalogue, it almost seems as if some entity is sitting on the re-release of the catalogue to keep eBay auction prices high. Perhaps Michael Cuscuna at Mosaic can shed light on why Maynard’s Roulette catalogue is not in print and when that might be changed. Those babies could use a CD remastering.