Although trumpeter Maynard Ferguson's mid- to late-'70s catalog was commercially viable, it also reflected the overindulgence that, in essence, defined the decade. By 1974, Ferguson had already become one of the most established figures in contemporary jazz. After performing with Stan Kenton & His Orchestra in 1950, he became a prolific recording artist. Unlike many jazz players, Ferguson maintained his chops, arguably gaining incremental momentum for his trademark high-range blasting, which is evident throughout this LP. Stylistically, Chameleon (1974) is all over the place. The supporting combo -- which includes future Frank Zappa keyboardist Allan Zavod -- provide tastefully executed backing arrangements. Unfortunately, in many cases they are sonically voided by Ferguson's over the top wailing, the most flagrant example being the reworking of "The Way We Were," which features the trumpeter barreling through with the same gusto and attack that he brings to the hard-hitting cover of Stevie Wonder's "Livin' for the City" or the funkified rendering of the Herbie Hancock composition that gives this long-player its name. "Brother John" is notable for Ferguson's gospel-flavored introduction as well as the soulful support of the ensemble once the platter reaches cruising velocity. Less impressive is the brass assault that accompanies Paul McCartney's "Jet." However, the album concludes with the bop-oriented "Superbone Meets the Bad Man." This is one of the unmitigated highlights as the players embrace their jazz roots and discard the "hip" pretensions governing most of the material. In fact, the brief duet between Ferguson and Bruce Johnstone (baritone sax) makes the rest of the disc seem practically irrelevant. The 2003 CD reissue contains remastered sound as well as an extended essay within the 12-page liner booklet.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer