Maynard Ferguson

M.F. Horn/M.F. Horn 2/ M.F. Horn 3

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For some perverse reason, many American jazz critics of the early 1970s and listeners who were purists (in other words, those who actually held the art form back) had a difficult time with the albums fl├╝gelhornist and bandleader Maynard Ferguson cut during his British residency, because he had no trouble experimenting with pop forms and the likes of R&B and funk. History, as always, has proved them wrong. Of the six M.F. Horn recordings, the first three are the strongest. They are exceptionally bold in their willingness to experiment with color, tone, timbre, and form. Ferguson had help from a smoking cast of players and arrangers who included, variously, keyboardist Pete Jackson, percussionist Ray Cooper, saxophonists Peter King and Bob Watson, trombonists Billy Graham and Chris Pyne, and arrangers Kenny Wheeler, Keith Mansfield, and Adrian Drover (who also played trumpet) to name a scant few. The Beat Goes On label has done their usual exceptional job of remastering, keeping everything warm, as well as stunningly clear. While these three recordings -- presented on a double-disc -- offer no weak cuts, there are some stunners including "MacArthur Park," "Chala Nata" (which brings together soundtrack funk, progressive jazz, and Indian modal music in a deep groover), "Country Road," fine rearrangements of Isaac Hayes' "Theme from Shaft," John Lennon's "Mother" (read as a slightly dissonant blues), and "'Round Midnight," "Mother Fingers," and "S.O.M.F." These three albums are all slamming; they should be heard -- and cherished -- by any serious jazz-funk fan.

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