[JPL] Lovely Mike Zwerin piece FYI

Bob Rogers rwsfin at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 4 21:59:37 EDT 2006

Bob Rogers
2816 Barmettler Street
Raleigh, NC 27607
WSHA - www.wshafm.org
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email: rwsfin at hotmail.com
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>From: Rafizabor at aol.com
>To: undisclosed-recipients:;
>Subject: Lovely Zwerin piece FYI
>Date: Mon, 4 Sep 2006 16:22:38 EDT
>Rochefort Kindles Memories of Maynard Ferguson: Mike Zwerin
>2006-09-04 01:00 (New York)
>By Mike Zwerin
>       Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Barry Melton, co-founder of and
>guitarist with Country Joe and the Fish, said that Rochefort en
>Accords (Rochefort in Harmony) in France was a better music
>festival than Woodstock or Monterey (both of which he played).
>       Some 35 years later, he remains an enthusiastic music maker
>and listener. His feet were tapping, and there were grinning
>guitarists singing and strumming all over town during the entire
>festival, which took place during the last weekend of August.
>       It could not be called a ``major'' festival. The audiences
>were in the hundreds, and, for the musicians, the good hang was
>obviously more important than the money. Rochefort en Accords,
>which described itself as ``unexpected and unpredictable,'' was
>both out of time and out of place.
>       Out of place, because it was an Anglo-American festival of
>folk, blues, and country music sung by English-language
>singer/songwriters in a small provincial port on the Atlantic coast
>of France (the locals seemed to love it).
>       Out of time because the program was dominated by veterans such
>as Melton who made their names many years ago -- Peter
>Rowan, guitarist with the bluegrass legend Bill
>Monroe, the Rowan Brothers, and the Jerry
>Garcia band; Keith Christmas, guitarist on
>David Bowie's ``Space Oddity;'' Ronnie Caryl,
>guitarist with Phil Collins and Flaming Youth.
>       There were no horn players. Guitarists play in sharp keys,
>which are easier on their instruments. Sharp keys begin to grate
>and prickle after three days, and I was feeling wired. There was
>also a dire lack of chords reflecting anything more advanced than
>harmony 101.
>                           Culture Clash
>       The clash of musical cultures within me was driven home when I
>heard in Rochefort that the trumpeter Maynard
>Ferguson had died a few days earlier, on Aug. 23, in
>California. (The few guitar players I mentioned it to had never
>heard of Maynard Ferguson.) I was in his jazz band in
>1959 and 1960, and I remembered how I used to love sitting in the
>middle of all those fat and fancy jazz chords played by brass and
>reed instruments in the funkier flat jazz keys.
>       It was a while ago, and I had not seen him since, so I was
>surprised to be so moved by his passing. The absence of black
>performers in Rochefort led me to recall how color-blind he had
>been. When a chair became vacant, he would just hire the next guy
>who came along and could play. There were no quotas. A racially
>integrated band in those days was rare.
>       Most of the arrangements were by Slide Hampton, whom I
>replaced in the trombone section. They were good arrangements, the
>players were good, and we liked Ferguson for his color-blindness.
>Along with Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, he was a rare bandleader
>who was also a virtuoso on his instrument. At the same time, he was
>not afraid to hire soloists who were better than he was; and he
>gave them the space to play.
>                             Drum Solos
>       Frankie Dunlop, who later played with Thelonious Monk, was the
>drummer. Ferguson really liked drum solos. During my time with the
>band, his soloists included tenormen Wayne Shorter and Joe Farrell
>(later with Chick Corea), the trumpeter Don Ellis (composer of the
>music for ``The French Connection,'') and the grotesquely
>underrated Jaki Byard on piano.
>       Ferguson's fatal flaw was his majestic high register. Although
>he could play a soulful blues if he felt like it, most of the time
>he leaned on high notes, which (like drum solos) always got
>applause. He was like a home-run hitter who considered a single a
>failure. He could play triple high Cs with ease, and he moved
>around fast up there without cheating by swallowing notes. Unlike
>other high-note trumpeters (Cat Anderson with Duke Ellington for
>example), he also had a fat low register.
>                           Treble Overload
>       All those high notes required a big band to fill in the mid-
>range -- a combo would have been insufficient and a big band was
>actually a part of his instrument. But it was still all treble, as
>though somebody forgot to turn the woofer on. Somebody said that
>Ferguson's trumpet ``screamed with passionate vulgarity,'' and back
>in the brass section, we used to say: ``If Maynard had taste he'd
>be a genius.''
>       Although the shouting, the glitz, the kitsch, and the banality
>(the themes from ``Rocky'' and ``Battlestar Galactica'') could be
>embarrassing, Ferguson just loved to lead a big band, he was very
>good at it, his body language communicated enthusiasm and playing
>with him was fun. He was probably the best boss I ever had. Along
>with Count Basie and Harry James, we were one of the top big bands
>still working at the end of the big-band era.
>       One weekend, I drove one of the cars through a blizzard from
>New York to a one-nighter in Cincinnati and back. The following
>Monday, I collected two checks -- $35 for playing and $109 for
>       Actually, not that much has changed. During the Rochefort en
>Accords festival, a guitar player pointed out, not at all
>unhappily, that musicians are paid in inverse proportion to their
>enjoyment of their work.
>      (Mike Zwerin is a critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions
>expressed are his own.)

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