Maynard Ferguson 1986: “Body & Soul” and 1990: “Big Bop Nouveau” www.OmnivoreRecordings.com
Omnivore Recordings continues its Maynard Ferguson reissue campaign with two new packages from the three-time Grammy nominee and Downbeat magazine award winner. These two reissues of 1986’s “Body & Soul,” and 1990’s “Big Bop Nouveau” add bonus tracks; three for “Body & Soul,” and one (with Big Luther Kent’s vocal) on “Big Bop Nouveau.” “Body & Soul” was originally issued by the Blackhawk label, “Big Bop Nouveau” debuted on Intima Records. These albums were long out-of-print. Now with cooperation with the Maynard Ferguson Trust they’re available again via the Omnivore Recording label who has previously released other entries from Ferguson’s back-catalog.
“Body & Soul” thrusts into high-gear with Denis DeBlasio’s appropriately titled and caffeine infused “Expresso” features a riveting trumpet solo from Ferguson. The title also meticulously arranged by DeBlasio track is more moderate with its tempo with standout solos from tenor saxophonist Rick Margitza, and Ferguson’s trumpet. Matt Harris composed and arranged the mildly funky and punchy “M.O.T.” solos from current Rolling Stones saxophonist Tim Ries, plus Michael Higgins edgy guitar and Ferguson’s trumpet. Harris’s Latin tinged “Mira Mira” bristles with Todd Carlon’s keyboards, Steve Fisher and Dave Millers percussive break and Ferguson’s trumpet. Another Harris composition/arrangement “Last Dive” upshifts with another solid tenor solo from Margitza, Higgins’ ignites a short but wild guitar solo that makes for a rapid romp especially when Ferguson hits his high-notes with gusto. DeBlasio returns with his ballad-like yet dynamic “Beautiful Hearts” and his inspired flute, Ries’s tenor, and Ferguson’s trumpet and flugelhorn. The co-authored DeBlasio/Ferguson “Central Park” has a car-chase feeling motoring through the urban-garden park utilizing the city’s skyline as its backdrop – could have been used in a movie or TV soundtrack. (Three previously unreleased bonus tracks) open with the heady “Flight 108” composed and arranged by Tim Ries with opening and closing soaring solos by Ferguson sandwiched in-between with Ries’ sax and Higgins guitar solos. Trombonist Steve Wiest composed/arranged and sings on “Blues from Space” an out-of-site blast that takes off into stratospheric rap/scat big-band cosmos. The concluding bonus track is a live performance take of the previous studio version of “M.O.T.” displays the power and energy of this 1986 edition of Ferguson’s potent big band.
“Big Bop Nouveau” Opens with James Giuffre’s composition “Blue Birdland” that he also arranged, the walking baseline intros captivating solos from Christopher Hollyday’s alto, Glenn Koster’s baritone, Tom Bevan’s guitar and the leaders trumpet. Ray Noble’s classic “Cherokee” is arranged by Mike Abene follows powerfully at breakneck speed with a lengthy workout via Hollyday’s alto. The storming “Caught in the Current” is composed and arranged by George Stone, features trading solos via Matt Wallace’s tenor and Maynard’s trumpet. Jimmy Van Heusen’s and Johnny Burke’s “But Beautiful” is treated regally by Dave Metzger’s and John Towney’s arrangements, Towney adds a fine piano lick that subtlety changes the mood and fascinates. The aptly titled “Crusin’ for a Bluesin’” authored and arranged by Andy Wiener is a hair-raising horn-blowing piece from beginning to end with quality solos by all the sax-players in the band and Ferguson. “The Maynard Ferguson Hit Medley” (12:05) is comprised of: Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon,” Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park,” Slide Hampton’s “Frame for the Blues,” Leonard Bernstein’s “Maria,” concludes with Joe Zawinul’s “Birdland.” I could have done without the phony added crowd applause, though the tightly edited song segues are magnificent as are the superlative arrangements by Don Metzger and the contributing arrangers Slide Hampton, Todd Carlin, Jay Chataway, and Nick Lane. There’s just one bonus track on “Big Bop Nouveau” authored and arranged by Steve Wiest featuring the vocal prowess of New Orleans great Luther Kent. Big Luther’s in fine form as he sails through “Compared to You” talking about several brands of alcohol, autos, LP’s, food, oil wells, high-tech studio electronics, with humorous comparisons to this particular lady. Maynard explodes on this bluesy big-band bash that rolls and strolls. *Note: I’ve known Luther Kent for at least a decade and asked him if he knew about this recording. He did, and recalls being flown out to the West Coast and was paid for the session, but it wasn’t used on the original album. Twenty-five plus years later; that wrong has been righted with this cool bonus inclusion that finally sees the light of day. If you would like to know more about Luther, I recommend checking out his web site at: www.LutherKent.com – You’ll be glad you did.
For 17 years Bob Putignano has been pivotal at WFDU with his Sounds of Blue radio show (Wed. & Fri. 9am-1pm) www.SoundsofBlue.com – https://wfdu.fm Previously a contributing editor at Blues Revue, Blueswax, and Goldmine magazines, currently the Music Editor for the Yonkers Tribune www.YonkersTribune.com & www.MakingAScene.org Bob was also the 2003 recipient of the “Keeping the Blues Alive” award (given by the Blues Foundation in Memphis) for his achievements in radio broadcasting. Putignano can be contacted at: BobP@SoundsofBlue.com