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Maynard Ferguson

(5.4.28 – 8.23.06)

The first two words that come to mind whenever I’ve thought about Maynard-and that has been quite often over the years since leaving his band in 1978 to join Weather Report-are “gracious” and “gentleman.” Of course, most people will conjure the sound and image of Maynard playing one of his trademark soaring trumpet lines that were miles up in the sky. But it was Maynard’s cheerful disposition and generous behavior that made the strongest impression on me. He was the best boss I ever had.

During the two years that I worked for Maynard, he was always kind and welcoming to my parents and friends. Maynard treated every player’s family or girlfriend like honored guests whenever they were brought ’round to meet him. Maynard was also incredibly generous to his sidemen in terms of sharing and shining the spotlight on them. Contrary to most other bandleaders of the time, Maynard always made sure that the guys in his band got their due. Upon hearing the tragic news of Maynard’s passing, I dug out an old videotape of a television appearance the band made in early 1978. After one of the songs we played, Maynard was being interviewed by host Mike Douglas, and he steered one of the questions to provide the opportunity for him to heap praise upon his trumpet section, and used his few seconds of TV-bully pulpit time to promote music education in schools.

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