Maynard Ferguson

The Best of Maynard Ferguson

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Given that trumpeter and bandleader Maynard Ferguson began his recording career as a leader in 1951 and didn't sign to Columbia until 1969, issuing his first sides for the label in 1970 -- and his last in 1982 -- this can hardly be called the "best of" Maynard Ferguson. It's arguable that this is even his best work for the label. For the sake of argument, we'll look at this compilation as a decent if imperfect collection of the period of his greatest popularity, and there are some fine tracks on it including his reading of Jimmy Webb's "MacArthur Park," Sonny Rollins' "Airegin," and his rollicking disco reading of Jay Chattaway's "Pagliacci." The problems are the prevalence of movie themes -- from the title theme of Rocky, Battlestar Galactica, and the "Star Wars Theme" -- all are insufferable because of their over familiarity. His take on "Birdland," the Weather Report anthem, is wonderful and may be as fine as the original. For those who want to hear what Ferguson was about before he hit Columbia, check out any compilation of his Roulette sides first, and perhaps his self-titled album in 1970 with the Webb tune, and Laura Nyro's "Eli's Comin'," for a taste of why the label signed him in the first place.

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