Ferguson Shows Off Trumpet Virtuosity
From the Lincoln Star. Wednesday, February 3, 1993
By Maureen Bogues

World-renowned trumpeter, educator and master showman Maynard Ferguson blew up a storm before an audience of 1,100 at the Lincoln High School auditorium Tuesday night.

Playing "God's instrument," as he calls it, Ferguson sent hundreds of notes heaven-bound in a flashy display of technique and showmanship throughout his 90-minute program of traditional jazz and rock-funk music.

Ferguson and his youthful eight-man ensemble, the Big Bop Nouveau band, brought a sense of play and pizzazz to an enthusiastic crowd, many of whom were students.

Earlier Tuesday, Ferguson conducted a musicians workshop at the school, whose band department sponsored his visit as a fund-raising effort.

"I think everybody in this town plays the trumpet," Ferguson joked at the opening of his show, which followed a two-song warm-up by the Lincoln High School Varsity Jazz Band.

Ferguson, 64, has been playing music for 50 years. Evidence of that experience shows in his flawless technique as a band leader and musician, and in his ability to work a crowd.

Much of the program was drawn from the band's newest release, "Footpath Cafe," a mix of traditional blues, swing and samba.

The concert got the local stamp of approval with the appearance of saxophonist Matt Wallace, an Omaha native and graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He displayed his wide range of talents on alto and tenor saxophones, on an electronic wind instrument, and in a bluesy vocal solo.

The band opened with the swing tune "Get It to Go," a dizzying number that drove at light speed through tricky chord progressions and rhythms.

The emotional centerpiece of the show, however, was a dazzling rendition of Dizzy Gillespie's bebop classic, "A Night in Tunisia," which showcased soloists throughout the band. Highlights included Chip McNeill's piercing attack on soprano sax and Doug Bickel's highly ornamented piano solo.

Ferguson gave ample tribute to Gillespie, his late friend and mentor, in a series of flashy passages, and especially in one muted solo.

Not a half-bad singer, Ferguson growled his way through the bluesy late-night shuffle of "That's My Desire."

The hypnotic south-of-the-border sounds of "Brazil" spilled forth in an infectious arrangement by McNeill. Another showcase for musical virtuosity, the piece provided plenty of solos that traveled through each member of the rhythm, brass and woodwind sections.

Ferguson and lead trumpeter Dan Miller squared off in a duel that elicited cheers from the crowd; also noteworthy was Bickel's classically inspired piano solo and Jim Donika's fast fingerwork on the upright bass.

The band turned to funk and rock for the closing medley that brought musicians down into the aisles. Jokingly referred to as the "MF (as in Maynard Ferguson) Hit Medley," it featured such pop-rock standards as "MacArthur Park," "Maria," "Chameleon," and "Hey Jude," all played with precision and more than a little fun.

After a much-deserved standing ovation, Ferguson returned to lead the band through the jazz-fusion standard "Birdland" as an encore.