Posts Tagged ‘Maynard Ferguson’

DRUMMING LEGEND JAKE HANNA’S BIOGRAPHY: About the Man who Wrote the Book on the Integrity of Swing

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Woody Herman led a band for six decades, and in those six decades, granted complete musical freedom to only two sidemen: Drummers Dave Tough and Jake Hanna. Because of their taste, time, ability to swing, support and play for the band, the Old Woodchopper let them play any way they wanted. In the process, Tough and Hanna became legends.

There’s a new book out about one of those legends, Jake Hanna, and it stands as essential reading. For anyone who can read.

Maria S. Judge, Hanna’s niece, has written her uncle’s biography, “Jake Hanna: The Rhythm and Wit of a Swinging Jazz Drummer” (Meredith Music Publications) and like the subject, the work is as much a “production” as it is a bio. That’s because Hanna, who sadly left us only two years ago, was quite the multi-faceted “production” himself, fondly remembered as a story teller, humorist, sports fan, family man, teacher, mentor, talent scout, and a versatile percussionist who virtually stood for the concept of swing. And the concept of swing he stood for was his concept of swing.

Obviously, a regular bio could not do in this singular case, which is why Ms. Judge enlisted the contributions of, count ‘em, 192 friends, fans, family members, fellow musicians, students and admirers. As a whole, they tell of the drummers’ many sides, ranging from genial family man and uncompromising musician, to rabid sports fan and hilarious raconteur.

Indeed, a good majority of the 192 contributors herein say something about the man’s famed sense of humor, whose pinpoint, spontaneous wit rivaled that of any professional humorist. His lines and his stories, liberally sprinkled throughout, will have you laughing until you gasp for what’s left of breath. Start with the story he tells about Buddy Rich with Sam Most and the sextet in Chicago.

Above all, of course, Hanna was a drummer, with legions of admirers in and out of the business. Drummers of every style and age—including Charlie Watts, no less—worshipped him. Though Judge’s work is not an instructional book or educational manual, there’s plenty of meat here for drummers about Hanna’s style, philosophy, technique, drum tuning, the art of playing brushes and cymbals, his thoughts on equipment, and opinions on other drummers, musicians and singers. And sure, though he revitalized the bands of Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman much in the same way as Louie Bellson revitalized Duke’s band, he was a superb small group player and accompanist to singers, was instrumental in the formation and ongoing success of the Concord Jazz label, was responsible for convincing Rosie Clooney to come back to the business, and set an example for jazz and for integrity by becoming the first player to leave a lucrative studio position to play jazz exclusively.

As just one example of how highly he was regarded in and out of the jazz community, when Bing Crosby returned to live performing for the last several years of his life, he only wanted one drummer backing him: Jake.

In describing Jake Hanna, two of the phrases that crop up again and again are “one of a kind,” and “they don’t make them like that anymore.”

How true. But as funny as he was, to Jake Hanna, it was all about music.

Guitarist Howard Alden was right on the mark, saying, “…He was all about music. There was a sincerity and honesty in his playing, and if you played sincerely and honestly with him, he would like it and respect it. He had no tolerance for bullshit. When he played he was behind every note, there was no trying to put on airs. He was completely in service of the music, the beauty and the swing.

“Jake was the most sincere, no-nonsense musician on any instrument, not just drums. Every note was from the heart and was full of integrity.”

It’s not certain whether awards are given out for books like these. If they’re not, there should be. If they are, Maria S. Judge should win it.

Maynard! Master of the Trumpet Stratosphere

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Maynard Ferguson, the dynamic, musically stratospheric and charismatic bandleader/trumpter who died in August of 2006, is the subject of a new book.
Not surprisingly, the work was not able to find a traditional book publisher.
Maynard! was written and assembled by Grammy Award-winning record producer Ralph Jungheim, is a collection of interviews with many of Maynard’s personal and professional colleagues through the years, including reedman Lanny Morgan, Don Menza and Bud Shank; drummers Rufus Jones, Shelly Manne and Peter Erskine’ singer Irene Kral; guitarist Mundell Lowe; trumpeter Lew Tabackin; and various others.
Maynard! is self-published and the good news is that it was published at all, in a day and age when traditional book retailers are going under, and the only works that seem to get traditional book deals these days are works by politicians, conservative and otherwise.
Lee Mergner, Editor of Jazz Times magazine, who first wrote about this on the site, is optimistic when it comes to print publishing and jazz. He should know, as Jazz Times ceased publishing recently until, thankfully, it found another buyer and is back in business.
“Print is most assuredly not dead,” Mergner said. “Nor is the oral history. If anything, the difficulties of bookstores have created a do-it-yourself submarket, in which projects heretofore viewed as commercial risks become unabashed labors of love, published via print-upon-demand or eBook or no-frills self-publishing.”
Ferguson’s life and music are worthly of a full-fledged bio. Dr. William Lee did write an authorized biography of Maynard about ten years ago, but its scope was surprisingly limited.
Born in Quebec in 1928, Ferguson was a child trumpet prodigy who quit school at 15, performed with, and eventually led a bunch of bands there. He came to the United States circa 1949, and spent road time with the likes of Jimmy Dorsey, Boyd Raeburn, and the leader who really groomed Maynard Ferguson to be a star, the equally charasmatic Stan Kenton, with whom he spent the years 1950 to 1953. Leaving Kenton, he was a Paramount studio player until 1956. In 1957, he led his first, U.S. band, known as “The Birdland Dream Band.”
It lasted, in various incarnations, until the bottom dropped out of the jazz business around 1967. But MF’s band was astounding, and those a part of it during those salad days likened it to what it must have been like to be a member of The Rolling Stones.
The array of talent that passed through that 12-piece group was incredible, and included artists such as Joe Zawinul, Don Ellis, Bill Chase, Slide Hampton, Jimmy Ford, Don Menza, Jake Hanna, Rufus Jones, Jaki Byard, John Bunch; and an equally wonderful array of arrangers and composers. The band recorded prolifically for Roulette. Volume-wise, they could blow groups twice the size off he stage. Subtle, it wasn’t. Swinging, it was.
Call Maynard Ferguson the “Buddy Rich of the trumpet,” if you will. No one has yet been able to equal his trumpet range and the clarity of his range—no one, quite simply, could play higher—and the energy, feeling, and enthusiasm he brought to the stage was consistently infectious and exciting. By God, it’s even been said that Miles Davis liked his playing.
Ferguson had become, like Harry James before him and Doc Severinson afer him, as much of a personality as a musician, though he never, ever compromised his musical vision.
Times were tough in the latter 1960s for everything that was jazz, and were at a particularly low ebb for big bands. Woody was scuffling, Basie was recording Beatles’ tunes, and Ellington was surviving. Buddy Rich, however, did begin to make something of a splash on the scene around 1967, but Maynard couldn’t ignore increasing audience disinterest. He first cut down to a small group, spent some time studying and teaching in India, and ended up living in Manchester, England, circa 1969.
He has no idea that a second, very successful career was in the offing, via his signing with CBS Records in England in 1969, and later forming an all-British band, with the accent on more contemporary material with a contemporary beat.
Maynard came back to the states permanently in 1973 and resumed a hectic touring schedule, with the emphasis on high school and college bookings, and in-residence teaching “clinics,” a concept pioneered by Stan Kenton. The band became a favorite of younger music fans via their choice of material, and in fact, made it to the coveted “top 40” with “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme from the film, “Rocky,” in 1977.
Demand for the band—as well as its prices—went up, and Maynard Ferguson was able to maintain the group, through several names and musical configurations, until just days before his death on August 23, 2006.
As a person? There are only two musicians in the history of jazz that no one—no one—has ever heard a negative word about. Louie Bellson. And Maynard.
The source material for Maynard! was a series of interviews recorded by author in 1978, when Ferguson and the band were playing in Santa Monica, CA. His wife transcribed the many hours of interviews.
“Jungheim had hopes of getting a book deal based on the interviews,” Lee Mergner explained, but there were no takers” from the major publishing houses.
“So I put it in a box and pretty much forgot about it,” said Jungheim. “Every once in a while I’d take it out and read it, but then I’d forget about it. I had a bout with cancer about two and a half years ago, and my son suggested that I make it an eBook and finally get the thing out.”
Ultimately, Maynard! was released as a print-on-demand project. The 240-page paperback is now available via, and the author’s own
Matt Keller, who has reviewed the work for the Ferguson web site, describes it “as an absolutely compelling read for Maynard fans… from the musicians who played with him in the first 30 years of his career.” Though this work is incomplete as well, in that Ferguson performed for almost 30 more years after these interviews were done, Keller says that the book “ provides a fascinating verbal accounting of the first half of Maynard’s recording and performing career.”
Perhaps the entire story will someday be told.


Friday, August 25th, 2006

We somehow knew that Maynard Ferguson’s appearance last month at the Philadelphia jazz club, Zanzibar Blue, would represent the last time we would see and hear this giant. Sadly, we didn’t make it there, and word has now come that Maynard Ferguson has passed away at the age of 78 of kidney and liver failure resulting from an abdominal infection. 

He was the last one. The last of a breed. The last, big-band bus road warrior, constantly traveling the highways to perform at high schools, colleges, clinics, clubs and jazz festivals. The big band era, such as it was, is now officially over. 

Maynard was among the very, very few who played this music called jazz who managed to appeal to those who may not have liked jazz before or since. The list, which will not include artists of the Kenny G. era, is a short one, and includes Krupa, Rich, Ramsey Lewis, Brubeck, Cannonball, Eddie Harris, Kenton and Goodman. In many cases, jazz critics past and present never forgave many of these artists for having hit records or for having appeal beyond three record reviewers who sit in a dark room. 

His 1978 hit recording of the theme from the movie, “Rocky,” entitled “Gonna Fly Now,” was a top ten seller and a Grammy nominee in 1978. It also represented the end of any serious, critical claim Maynard ever received. Then again, the critics never liked him, even in the days when his double high C’s dominated the Stan Kenton band of over 50 years ago. Critical comment through the years, which also applied to Maynard’s wonderful band of the late 1950s and early 1960s, included statements like: “He’s not playing jazz.” “He can’t play jazz.” He’s too loud.” “The band plays too loud.” “The band plays too fast.” “He’s just a modern day Harry James.” “He’s just a modern day Al Hirt.” “He’s just a modern day Doc Severinson.” “He plays too much rock.” “What is this electric nonsense?” 

For the past several years, he has been virtually ignored by the polls, and the jazz and music press, despite his substantial contributions to jazz education and that he was the last big band leader to be on the road regularly. Also not acknowledged was the fact that Ferguson’s bands through the years served as an undergraduate university and training ground for dozens of future jazz stars. This list, starting from the old days, includes players like Willie Maiden, Slide Hampton, Jimmy Ford, Lanny Morgan, Rufus Jones, Don Sebesky, Joe Zawinul, Jaki Byard, Don Menza, Frankie Dunlop, Carmen Leggio, Bill Watrous, Chick Corea (who subbed for Jaki Byard at Birdland!), Mike Abene, Ronnie McClure, Peter Erskine, Greg Bisonnette, Dennis DiBlasio and countless others. 

I was lucky enough to see the famed late 1950s/early 1960s band at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music in 1961. I learned to play drums by playing along to “At the Sound of the Trumpet” and “Frame For the Blues,” two Maynard tunes regularly played by Philadelphia radio personality and Ferguson booster Sid Mark. I saw the English band, the rock bands, and the bop band. Maynard was always moving, always inspiring, always the focal point of whatever was going on, no matter what musical style was being played. His playing, particularly his high note leads, made me feel as if I were on a roller-coaster, going down the first hill. I’m told he still had “it,” even at the age of 78. 

Maynard’s long time manager, Steve Schankman, could only say, “Someone just said, ‘Gabriel, over to second trumpet.’” Cornball? Maybe. But true. Kenton knew that Maynard had “it,” very early on. “Maynard,” he said. “Someday you’ll be king.” 

He was. And for much more than a day. 

In another recent and probable passing, this one corporate, word has come that Tower Records has declared bankruptcy. This comes as no surprise to those of us who have visited Tower in recent months and saw the chain’s once mighty stock dwindle and dwindle to no more than that of a rack jobbers’ at K-Mart. At its height, Tower had a superb selection of domestic and imported jazz CDs, a wonderful magazine section, and a great stock of jazz-oriented videos and DVDs. 

Certainly, most buying has moved online these days, but there was just something about having the chance to peruse, to relax, to browse through the selections, and to perhaps read some of the linear notes, that is missing from the online experience. However, no retailer could compete, in terms of stock, with an online retailer. It is indeed possible, sad to say, that the days of “record stores” of any size may be numbered. 

Potential buyers who haven’t visited great, great sites like and even, in a pinch,, will be very pleasantly surprised at what they have to offer and their superb service. 

As the newsreel said, “Time…marches on.” But why didn’t they ask me first?


Saturday, July 15th, 2006

Philadelphia is lucky in some ways. We have three clubs that regularly book name or semi-name jazz attractions. Chris’ Cafe’, Ortleibs Jazz House and Zanzibar Blue are to be commended on their policy, their consistency and dedication. The business of jazz, such as it is, just isn’t easy. Zanzibar Blue, in fact, is an instance where a venue has succeeded in spite of itself. Located with in the basement of one of Philadelphia’s grandest hotels, the former Bellevue-Stratford now the Park Hyatt, the club is comfortably appointed and serves really superior cuisine. The name acts are usually reserved for the weekend, and have included attractions like Maynard Ferguson, Little Jimmy Scott, Stacey Kent, Chris Connor, Steve Smith, Abbey Lincoln (who walked out because patrons made too much noise) and hundreds of others. Weekdays are reserved for Philadelphia area artists like drummer Webb Thomas, Barbara Walker and a host of regulars. Zanzibar has a built-in audience of well-heeled tourists who are staying in the hotel proper, as well as a number of dedicated Philadelphia jazz fans. 

The only strange thing about Zanzibar is what could be best described as the “vibe.” There’s an air of rudeness and superiority there, and that just breeds unpleasantness. I think they used to call something like this “feeling a draft.” I’ve felt it everytime I’ve walked in there. On more than one occasion, I talked to their booking folks about putting my group, along with singer Joy Adams, in there on an off-night weeknight. We didn’t even want any money, so this is not a case of sour grapes related to “not getting the gig, rather, we just wanted to perform in a space where our “fans” could hear us in pleasant surroundings. After a dozen calls, I continued to be ignored. I once asked a prominent Philadelphia radio personality why we could never get booked at Zanzibar, or Chris’ or Orliebs. Certainly, we’ve only been around as pretty top attractions for 30 years, to say nothing of the international prominence I’ve received via my books and videos. What was the problem? Said radio personality, who incidently is black, said with some shame in his voice, “Bruce. You’ll never get booked in those places. You don’t get down with the brothers.” 

Okay. Knew I was feeling something. 

Several months ago, our good friend Steve Smiith snared an appearance at Zanzibar with his fusion group, Vital Information. Steve asked me to help out with some advance promo, given that I was centered in Philadelphia. An e-mailing of close to 1,000 press releases went out, extolling the virtues of Steve Smith as a drummer, the Vital Information group, and the wonderful food and ambience of Zanzibar Blue. Some of you may have received that press release several months ago. The night of the performance, I was a bit taken a back that no one from Zanzibar Blue stepped forward to thank me for the work done on behalf of Vital info and Zanzibar. 

I e-mailed them about this several days later. Though they received copies of all the press releases and mailings done for Vital Information, they claimed to know nothing about it. However, I was surprised to hear back from them, saying that they were most grateful for my efforts. They insisted that Joy Adams and I be their guest for dinner and a show of our choosing. We chose July 14, early show, to hear the one and only Maynard Ferguson. In fact, we postponed our trip to Florida in order to hear Maynard. 

Checking to confirm that all was well reservations-wise the day before, II was startled to receive an e-mail from Zanzibar’s “Director of Operations,” claiming there was no reservation in my name. I replied immediately, saying that II was the person who did PR for Steve Smith and Zanzibar, that Zanzibar made me this offer, etc. Starting in the early morning of July 14th, I repeatedly e-mailed the Director of Operations and called about a half-dozen times with no reply whatsoever. Unprofessional doesn’t begin to describe this scenario, and my only thought was, “I’m too old for this nonsense. No way will I subject us to this vibe.” 

I waited until almost 4 p.m. for a return call. If we had actually decided to go, we would have had less than an hour to get ready. We still heard from no one. That’s when I decided to e-mail the Director of Operations and tell her about her gross unprofessionalism, how deeply I had been insulted, just who I was–again– and that I planned to write a column on the web site about this insulting experience. 

Bingo. The old column trick. That usually does it. At 4:25 in the afternoon, I received a phone call from the Director of Operations, who informed me of the following: That the person who made this reservation for me no longer worked there and never put the reservation in the system; that if I told her who I was (which I did after getting her first e-mail) that she would have instantly known that I had a reservation; that she broke her toe this morning; that she doesn’t sit in front of the computer all day. And, contrarary to my assertion about Zanzibar Blue’s legendary rudeness, she said she has never heard a complaint about anything from guests or performers (she has now). I asked her what she wanted me to do at this point. She said, “Come to the show.” I replied that I wouldn’t walk through Zanzibar Blue if it were the last place in the galaxy and Sinatra was appearing, and I don’t mean Frank Junior. She had nothing to say about ignoring my various e-mails and telephone calls made throughout the day, prior to the “I’m going to write a column: e-mail. . Perhaps it was the broken toe. 

Did I take this personally? Perhaps. I felt I was being regarded as a liar and as someone who was after a dinner. They made the offer, and they discovered that there was, indeed, a reservation made on my behalf. It was made through the PR Director, subsequently fired, and supposedly was never entered into the system. In other words, “The dog ate my homework.” You want to go to Zanzibar Blue? Go ahead. Have a ball. I won’t see you there. The only thing I’m sorry about is not seeing Maynard. Close to 80 years old now and still swinging, he’s the last of the old guard to be on the road year-round. He has been virtually ignored by the jazz press for the past several years, which is an absolute disgrace. He has never been forgiven, evidently, for having a hit record (“Gonna Fly Now,” theme from the movie “Rocky”). And owing to Zanzibar Blue’s crack publicity team, not word one–excepting a tiny listing–in terms of a newspaper article appeared about this giant. Still, Philadelphians have always been great Maynard fans, and no doubt the joint will be packed. Maynard, God bless him, always got down with the brothers. 

Through the years, some of the true legends of jazz have called Philadelphia home. There were and are dozens of them. Sadly, we just lost three fine, fine players in rapid succession, and though they were never in the national spotlight, they could and should have been. Singer Clyde Terrell had a taste of the limelight, via his vocal on Earl Bostic’s “September Song.” Mostly, though, he sang locally and always soulfully in a style that combined influences of Johnny Hartman and Arthur Prysock. No one could sing so well so slowly. The two CDs he made, late in life, for the DBK Jazz label were superb and garnered substantial radio play. Joy Adams and I were instrumental in getting Clyde this long overdue recording contract, and we hope and trust it gave him some joy late in life. 

Pianist Eric Spiegel, also known as Eric Shaw, had a tremendous respect for the jazz tradition and was particularly fluent in the language of be-bop. For some years, he was a part of a duo here in Philadelphia, the second half being the great jazz singer, Wendy Simon. They were first called Tuxedo Junction and later, 52nd Street. Their eclectic repertoire included everything from King Pleasure and Eddie Jefferson, to Jackie and Roy, and Lambert Hendricks and Ross. Eric and Wendy were poised to break out on the national scene, but as often happens, it never came to be. Spiegel later had a terrible, terrible auto accident and suffered severe brain injuries. Still, he worked hard in rehab and came back playing better than ever. He will be missed. 

Warren Davis, Jr. was an Episcopal Minister who I’d best describe as “the best preacher who ever preached” and/or “the best minister who ever ministered.” Additionally, he was a superb jazz pianist of the Teddy Wilson school who performed extensively in the Philadelphia, particularly at a number of Jazz Vespers concerts, a form of jazz presentation which he helped invent and popularize. Along with his regular cohorts, bassist Vince Long (who started at “square one” on bass several years ago and is well on his way now to becoming world class) , vocalist Joe Richardson, and often, guitarist Ron Parker, “The Gabriels” brought much joy to all who heard them. Though mainly playing in the swing vein, Warren’s ears were more than open enough to embrace every form of jazz, from be-bop to Ornette.And certainly, he loved the Duke. Had he wanted to, there’s no reason he couldn’t have been a national name. More importantly, he was the kindest and gentlest of men, who was open minded in matters other than music. Having come from a different religious persuasion than Warren, we had many, many discussions about the power and place of faith and religion. We decided–perhaps after a glass of wine or two–that there should be a religion that was similar to jazz. Our contention was that jazz was always open to all races, religions, ages, nationalities, etc., and that there should be a religion much the same as that. Hence, the invention of “The Sign of the Circle,” complete with secret “sign” (the sign was one hand making a circle) and business cards. I guess God needed a player who could play the heck out of “Sweet Lorriane,” without any alternate changes. I can think of no other reason for his absence here. Had Joy Adams not had a terrible slip and fall accident, complete with fractured and cracked ribs, we would have been front and center at the memorial. I’m sure Warren understands. He always did. Joy, your many friends, listeners and fans, and yours truly will miss you more than you may know, although depending on where you are, I’m sure you know!! 

In terms of some odds and ends, we will be travelling to Naples, FL, for a few weeks, beginning Tuesday, July 18th. It’s the birthday of our grand daughter, Niah Sage; and the graduation of the best web master who ever web mastered, Terry McKyton. Terry , by the way is receiving his Master’s Degree from the prestigious Stanton University (seriously, there is no Stanton, but his degree will be granted from one of Florida’s best). For our mail-order customers, from July 18th until further notice, probably about two or three weeks, please send any orders to: Bruce Klauber, 1108 Forrest Lakes Boulevard, Naples, FL, 34105. 

In line with updates, most of you are aware that Gene Krupa appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, ca. 1960, once or twice. We are doing everything possible to get those clips out of the vaults. The Sullivan heirs aren’t easy–read that “really, really, big”–but we’re trying. 

Finally, please feel free to comment on this column, other columns, or anything else you may have on your mind. You’re obviously doing this–fabulously, by the way–in The Forum, but if you’d like to earmark anything for publication in this space or even write a guest column, e-mail me directly at 

God bless our dear, swinging friends, Reverend Warren Davis, Jr., Eric Spiegel and Clyde Terrell. May you keep swingin’ for eternity and beyond. 

Bruce Klauber