Dan McMillion and I first heard Maynard Ferguson play when we were young and we were impressed! My introduction to Maynard was at the Snowdon Theater in Montreal during WWII. He was a very young teenager playing in the "Victory Serenaders" which he co-led with his brother. In Dan's case it was when the Kenton orchestra appeared at a state fair in Detroit. McMillion then went on to a career which included touring with Woody and that powerful Bill Chase trumpet section during the sixties. In 1995 he formed this seventeen-piece Tampa-based jazz orchestra. "Give It One" is their fifth CD.
The Dan McMillion Jazz orchestra is often referred to as "Ferguson-inspired." It includes some of Maynard's former players and performs many Ferguson charts. However it takes far more than inspiration to play this challenging music at a consistently high level. It takes McMillion's chops and a high level of musicianship and energy on the part of everyone in the band. McMillion is a virtuoso trumpeter who creates attention-getting solos and not only in the expected upper range. He appears on most of the tracks but shares solo space with six other horns.
The band crosses the start/finish line with a roar as they present the Tom Garling arrangement of "Just Friends." Keith Oshiro is eloquent on trombone. Maynard co-wrote "Give It One" and "Footpath Café." A lot of jazz-rock excitement on the title tune as lead trumpet Chad Shoopman joins McMillion in the stratosphere. "Footpath" is a bluesy change of pace featuring Chris Rottmayer on keyboard. Tom Deitz solos passionately on alto on both tunes.
And those arrangers and composers! Keith Mansfield provides a dramatic version of the Simon and Garfunkel hymn, "Bridge Over Troubled Water." There's inspired section work and a great bari solo by Dalton Hagler on Dennis Diblasio's intricate calypso, "Coconut Champaigne" and counterpoint meets swing in Don Sebesky's "Fan It Janet,"written for Maynard's Birdland Dream Band. The late Frank Mantooth's chart for "So in Love" showcases McMillion - and the orchestra - warm on flugelhorn and intense on trumpet. Then there's a time trip to the sixties with Joe Zawinul's "Birdland" and Bill Holman's take on "Watermelon Man. The latter features McMillion, Deitz, Oshiro and Mark Gould on tenor. Wayne Beardwood, who plays alto in the band, contributes two charts of jazz classics, showing his versatility and ability to use all the colors of the band's pallette. "Naima" is quietly beautiful while the swinging "Milestones" provides opportunity for McMillion to be both Miles and Maynard.
Maynard still tours with Big Bop Nouveau. Dan McMillion perpetuates the Ferguson sound with his powerhouse of an orchestra. Sea Breeze Records brings quality regional artists to an international audience. Aren't we fortunate!