Legendary Trumpeter Maynard Ferguson Dies at 78

Maynard Ferguson
Maynard Ferguson

Ojai (California), USA – Walter “Maynard” Ferguson, one of the most influential musicians and band leaders in the history of Jazz, passed away August 23, 2006 at 8:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California. He was 78 years old.

His death was the result of kidney and liver failure brought on by an abdominal infection. Mr. Ferguson’s four daughters Kim, Lisa, Corby, Wilder and other family members were at his side when he passed away after this brief illness. He spoke by phone with his friend and manager Steve Schankman from St. Louis, longtime tour manager Ed Sargent, and friend, and fellow trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.

Mr. Ferguson had recently returned home to California from New York after several sold out performances in July at the famed Blue Note Club. During this time, Ferguson and his Big Bop Nouveau band also recorded a new album at Bennett Studios in Englewood, New Jersey.

Maynard Ferguson, born May 4, 1928 in Montreal, started his career at the age of 13 when he performed as a featured soloist with the Canadian Broadcasting Company Orchestra. He played with some of the great Big Band Leaders of the 1940’s including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Barnett, Jimmy Dorsey and Stan Kenton.

In 1945, at age 17, Ferguson became the leader of his own Big Band. The 78-year old musical phenomenon went on to record more than 60 albums, receiving numerous honors and awards including the GRAMMY nomination for “Gonna Fly Now.” In 2005, Ferguson was awarded Canada’s highest civilian honor, the “Order of Canada” from the Right Honorable Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. In addition to those accolades, Ferguson has been the recipient of DownBeat Magazine’s prestigious “DownBeat” Award.

“The Boss,” as Ferguson was known, performed for packed houses for decades. His recent DVD release, Live at the Top, captured one of his most memorable performances, a
concert held at the Plaza Hotel in Rochester, New York in 1975, with Ferguson performing alongside fellow music pioneers Stan Mark, Ernie Garside and Bruce

Most recently, Ferguson and Big Bop Nouveau Band toured the United States. He was preparing for a Fall Tour beginning mid-September in Tokyo, Japan. He had also been invited to play for the King of Thailand’s 80th birthday in January.

His most recent recording was Mf Horn VI-Live at Ronnies (2006).

Mr. Ferguson’s body will be cremated in his hometown of Ojai, California. Memorial contributions can be made to the Maynard Ferguson Music Scholarship Fund at University of Missouri – St. Louis, which was established by Steve Schankman at Maynard’s 75th birthday celebration. Mr. Schankman and the Ferguson family are planning a memorial concert to take place in St. Louis which will feature many of the band’s alumni and friends who Mr. Ferguson performed with during his more than 60-year musical career.

Mr. Ferguson’s latest, and last, recording will be released later this year as a
legacy to the life of Maynard Ferguson.