M.F. HORN 4 & 5 : LIVE AT JIMMY'S
Ferguson's Big Band was playing a residency at New York's Jimmy's Club where this album was recorded live one lunchtime. CBS were keen to catch the vibrancy of the band hence the rush to record it. The material is a mixture with Jimmy Webb's 'MacArthur Park' being one of the standouts.
I never heard that one, but this BGO remaster is pretty good. They managed to keep the original dynamics pretty much intact...not too much compromise for the ipod/ear-bud crowd (thanks a lot mp3 generation). I'm still hanging on to my lp copy. A digital transfer just can't beat the power and punch of a good vinyl pressing.
This is one of the best live jazz recordings of all time.
We had a cool jazz band teacher back in my high school days. He let us use the music room during lunch break to listen to records. This disc was always in high rotation, especially popular with the horn players! Still my favorite M.F. album!
Maynard always had the knack of attracting some of the strongest jazz players available. This version of the orchestra, with Bruce Johnston on baritone sax and Randy Jones on drums to name a few, was one of his strongest. This set was recorded during a mid-day concert in front of a packed house of Columbia Record exec's. The reason was when the idea arose to record at Jimmy's there wasn't enough time to arrange it before the group headed off to another gig up in New England. So the afternoon concert was arranged so that the group could return to New York for the recording and still get back to their nighttime concert.
The music here is some of his best. "MacArthur's Park" is a great rendition, much better than the version recorded a couple years earlier on his Live at the Great American Music Hall pair of CD's. It's followed by my personnel favorite "Left Bank Express." Other top numbers are "Two for Otis", "Nice & Juicy" and the final piece, "Got the Spirit." But pretty much all the listing here is great, with maybe the first piece "Teonova" being the weakest.
Again, I just can not express how happy I am that this is finally out on CD. If you are a Maynard fanatic or just a fan of Big Band jazz, do not hesitate to buy this. It's well worth it.
Now I know that there are many who relish hearing and buy Maynard for his virtuosity on trumpet but the real treasure here is the band.
By that I mean, this band has some marvelous soloists. The arrangments are outstanding and this band swings. At the time of the release there was some grumblings about the use of some electric piano on these pieces, but to my ear it works and is well in context.
The soloists I mentioned earlier are Bob Summers, Ferdinand Povel and Bruce Johnstone. Trumpet, Alto and Baritone saxes respectively. The tune that you you might consider commercial is "MacArthur Park" which is so maligned that it's almost gutsy to do the song. I liked their treatment of it. Maynard is Maynard on it. High up in the stratosphere near the satellites. Bruce Johnstone's solo is outstanding here even introducing a little Latin run.
"I'm Gettin' Sentimental Over You" is startling. All Ferdinand Povel in a marvelous display of what jazz ballad soloing is all about. He improvises beautifully, with excellent tone, literally redefining and modernizing it. I can listen to this one over and over again.
"Got the Spirit" starts out with Bruce Johnstone in blues mode on Baritone and then segues to a wonderfully up-tempo display of virtuosity tenor saxophone virtuosity - by Ferdinand Povel, that section ending with Maynard and him trading licks.
"Stay Loose With Bruce" - is a swinging vehicle for Bruce Johnstone who plays it for all it's worth. Cool, imaginative, expansive and as I said, swinging.
"Left Bank Express" is solid, driving modern jazz orchestra that gets the blood going. Very nice soprano saxophone sol
"The Fox Hunt" is a tour de force featuring Bob Summer and Maynard playing at full throttle. An amazing display of virtuosity, fire and drive by both.
"Two For Otis" is jazz orchestra at it's highest form. It just brings the house down.
I could go on and on. This album is a winner and it's amazing that it took this long for this recording to come out on CD. That's a shame since this one's up there, for me. An excellent Maynard Ferguson recording.