Album Review - Hollywood
From Down Beat; September 1982. Reviewer: Robert Henschen.
Rating: 2.5 Stars

Maynard Ferguson just can't keep his fingers out of the rock and pop pie. The last 10 years of his career have been spent chasing younger and younger ears, not only because he tours the high school auditorium circuit, but also because he really does seem to revel in the energy and the excitement that young fans give off when their juices are flowing. Maynard's effusive stage mixture of jazz and pizzazz may turn away many jazz purists, but he still manages to get some screamers in his crowds.

A little bit of hysteria can be dangerous, and Ferguson often threatens to go overboard in his playing of the trends. Here he has linked up with the rockiest bass player in jazz, Stanley Clarke, who not only produced Hollywood, but also played on it, directed it, arranged half the cuts, and contributed composing skills to Touch And Go and the title track. In addition to Clarke and the other all-stars listed above, this LP employs George del Barrio, Jerry Hey, Bill Meyers, and others to do the charts; a 12-man brass section full of familiar studio names; and a large string section led by Charles Veal and including Buell Neidlinger on acoustic bass.

Mix this with eight commercial tunes that sink as far as Dolly Parton's cutesy Nine To Five and you've got somebody's idea of a hit album. Ferguson rarely fails to be entertaining in the most obvious ways, but "extroverted" has sometimes been too kind a description of his jazz style. And yet, Hollywood largely resists the sensationalistic ear-splitting solos that have disrupted some of Ferguson's past music; indeed, MF's horns sound just fine. The brass is beautifully engineered throughout, and one of the album's strong points has to be production quality.

Tunes like Michael Jackson's Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough and Teena Marie's Portuguese Love are decent enough listening, but why recycle them so soon? And in such non-improvisational fashion? In a nutshell, that's the problem with Hollywood. Great musicians, brass polished to a shine, but no real use of the imagination. Even Stan The Man Clarke's unbeatable beat has been homogenized right out of the game.