Maynard went into the studios in July 2006 for what was to be his last recording session. He passed away in August. Big Bop Nouveau included alumni Wayne Bergeron, Denis DiBlasio, Chip McNeill and Steve Wiest and the last three came with charts. Such power! All that from five trumpets, one trombone, three reeds and a rhythm section. The special ingredient: Maynard. The session includes five standards and four originals, each with arrangers' notes.
O'Neill's "Without a Song" is uptempo and intense, with room for solos, including his own on soprano and Jeff Lashway on piano. Maynard then shows his love for Mancini as he improvises on "Days of Wine and Roses." DiBlasio contributed the chart and a robust baritone solo. He also arranged "Darn That Dream," a quiet gem for Maynard and pianist Lashway. You won't hum along on Wiest's reinvention of "Besame Mucho" but that's the whole idea. It's highlighted by fiery trumpet exchanges between Maynard and Wayne Bergeron. Wiest, inspired by Art Blakey and Gil Evans, also arranged "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone." Catch that shout chorus!
Three originals were penned by DiBlasio. "Vita Bella" is a lovely ballad with Maynard on flugelhorn and O'Neill on tenor. The mood on campus at Rowan University when Maynard received an honorary degree is captured by the high-spirited boppish "Dr. Fox Ph.D" while the percussive" Surviving Soho" deals with a different atmosphere around and about Ronnie Scott's in London. "Lost Horizons, " suggested by Maynard's favorite film, was written by son-in-law and pianist Christian Jacob especially for this CD to showcase piano and trumpet.
After Montreal, my few opportunities to hear Maynard coincided with stages in his musical journey: his boisterous big band at Boston's Totem Pole in the sixties, High Voltage in Cambridge in the eighties and, just a few years ago, Big Bop Nouveau in Carrboro,NC. By then the teenager was in his seventies and no longer slight but still clearly the exuberant master of his horn and his musicians. During a medley he bounded through the audience shaking just about everyone's hand. As he shook mine I mentioned Montreal and the Snowdon Theatre. We had come full circle.
Maynard lives! He lives on through our memories and his music, including this wonderful final recording,The One and Only Maynard Ferguson.