There is a reason Maynard Ferguson is so passionate about education:
he is the son of high school principals and the brother of a
psychology professor. "I have always been deeply interested in
education," says Ferguson, the iconic jazz trumpet star. "People
always laugh when they look at my background. The educational thing
was very much a part of my family. Even as a musician, the teaching
thing has always been in my blood. I guess it is coming out in a
Ferguson, along with his Big Bop Nouveau Band, will appear at
Montgomery High School on Thursday, July 13, as part of a week of
seminars and concerts sponsored by the Montgomery-based Jazz Mentors
Program. Jazz saxophone and flutist Lew Tabackin, Stanley Cowell,
Billy Hart, and Mike Richmond appear on Tuesday, July 11; saxophonist
Phil Woods and pianist John Coates Jr. appear Wednesday, July 12; and
the Woody Herman Orchestra appears Friday, July 14.
In addition to the shows open to the general public, each day of Jazz
Mentors week the jazz greats will hold a masters seminar, a
mini-concert, and a meet-and-greet and catered dinner for the
Joy Anderson, a Skillman resident and head of the Jazz Mentors
program, is a jazz vocalist who is married to tenor saxophonist,
composer, and arranger Gary Anderson. Her connections, as well as her
husband’s, make it easy for her to stay in contact with musicians and
get them to come to central Jersey.
At the age of 18, Anderson says, she went on the road with the Glenn
Miller Orchestra as a vocalist. "When I was a little child, many
musicians were there to teach and mentor me." The Andersons
established the Jazz Mentors Program to give back some of that
mentoring and, says Joy Anderson, to keep her in contact with youth.
Maynard Ferguson also continues to interact with youth in his own way.
Ferguson is going out on the road this summer as he always does. "I’m
like an old warhorse, getting ready to go out on the road again," he
says in a phone interview from his home in Ojai, California. The
76-year-old Montreal-born trumpeter is known for his stratospheric
high notes, his successful dabbling in pop-jazz in the 1970s and ’80s,
and his influential big band arranging and leading. He was born and
raised in Montreal, and studied at the French Conservatory of Music
but did not go to college. He played with the Canadian Broadcasting
Company orchestra as a teen and moved to New York City in 1949 at the
age of 21 to jumpstart his jazz career.
After the Jazz Mentors program, he will play in Philadelphia, New
York, California, Japan, and Europe. In London, he will perform at
Ronnie Scott’s, the internationally famous jazz club, where he
recorded his last album.
He says he is bringing with him a lot of young musicians who have
played since high school and have honed their skills in college. "I
might have to get another face lift," Ferguson says. "I’m the only guy
with white hair in my band."
The group’s younger players in many ways have grown up with Ferguson’s
influence, even if they don’t know it at first. "The fact that there
are so many fine young players out there is attributable to all the
music educators," says Ferguson.
One of those educators is baritone saxophonist Denis DiBlasio, who
heads the jazz studies program at Rowan University in Glassboro. In
2003 the program was named for Ferguson, who has been DiBlasio’s
mentor for decades. "I am delighted that Denis will be joining me,"
says Ferguson. "I try to get him whenever he is available. He is a
great player and great entertainer."
Ferguson tries to keep up with the youthful members of his band but
sometimes, he says, he just likes to watch. "I have always been
blessed with great personnel. It’s a lot of fun to put your horn down
and just listen to the band. But if you’re not careful, you end up
becoming part of the audience."
Of his trumpeter Serafin Aguilar, influenced both by Ferguson and
Arturo Sandoval, Ferguson says, "He is the type of guy that if my
chops ever get sore, I can just send him in there. I guess I’ve been
watching too much basketball."
Ferguson understands the need, especially at his age, to recover
physically. Fellow trumpeter Wynton Marsalis had to stop playing for
more than a month earlier this year because he overworked his
embouchure, resulting in a lip inflammation.
The elder trumpeter said he has never had to sit out like that, but
that he tries to eat right, exercise, and rest. He has a pool at his
California home, and he uses it daily.
If Maynard Ferguson came to his passion for education via his family
background, it was a family tragedy that drove Frank Tiberi, leader of
the Woody Herman Orchestra, to receive a different type of education.
When Tiberi was 12, his father died, and he had to assume the mantle
of provider for his family in Camden, he says. "I have been working
ever since." He organized a small jazz combo that played in
Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and everywhere in between. He also went
on the road with Urbie Green, Benny Goodman, and Dizzy Gillespie.
By the time he was in late teens, he was interacting with jazz greats
such as Al Cohn and John Coltrane, serving as protege of the former
and intense student – but from afar – of the latter. "I knew Coltrane,
but it was only to say hi and bye. He really wasn’t a social person,"
Tiberi says. "He wasn’t social with anyone. He never went out to bars
and drank. All he did was practice."
Tiberi also is a trained classical bassoonist and is credited with
being one of the musicians who introduced the instrument to jazz.
Since 1969 Tiberi has played in the famous "Four Brothers" sax section
of the Woody Herman Orchestra. Herman himself gave Tiberi the reins of
his orchestra in 1986, and a year later, when Herman died, Tiberi
became leader for good. Well, sort of. "Woody Herman will always be
the leader of this orchestra," he says.
Now a professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Tiberi, who
lives in western Massachusetts, teaches jazz improvisation and
harmony, especially harmony the way Coltrane approached it. He
continues to arrange Coltrane compositions such as "Naima" and "Giant
Steps" for the Herman Orchestra.
Tiberi, who has known the Andersons for almost 20 years, says he
doesn’t stick to one era for the arrangements the band plays, and he
continues to update the arrangements on an ongoing basis. "We play
everything from Steely Dan to Carole King to Chick Corea."
The Jazz Mentors Program and Concerts, Wednesday through Friday, July
12 to 14, Montgomery High School, 1016 Route 601, Skillman. $20; $15
students and seniors. Master seminars, with dinner and meet-and-greet,
$150. 888-466-0603, www.jazzmentors.com.
Lew Tabackin, Stanley Cowell, Billy Hart, and Mike Richmond, Tuesday,
July 11, 8 p.m.
Phil Woods and John Coates Jr., Wednesday, July 12, 8 p.m.
Maynard Ferguson and the Big Bop Nouveau Band, Thursday, July 13, 8
The Woody Herman Orchestra, Friday, July 14, 8 p.m.