Drum Corps International
Jazz legend Maynard Ferguson passes away, Rondinaro remembers Ferguson's work on 1979 broadcast

Jazz legend Maynard Ferguson passes away, Rondinaro remembers Ferguson's work on 1979 broadcast

by Chris Weber

Jazz trumpeter and bandleader Maynard Ferguson passed away Wednesday night after complications from an abdominal infection. He was 78. Ferguson, well-known for his screaming trumpet solos, served as a Drum Corps International broadcast color commentator at the 1979 World Championships in Birmingham, Ala.

DCI Broadcasters Maynard Ferguson and Steve Rondinaro
Steve Rondinaro, a fellow first-year commentator that year, remembers working with Ferguson on the broadcast: "1979 was my very first year on the show. I went in there wide-eyed and excited about the opportunity to do drum corps, which was my passion, on PBS, which is a national broadcast. And having the opportunity to do that with Maynard Ferguson no less? I was fairly fresh out of college at the time, and all us jazz band guys idolized him. As far as I was concerned, I had died and gone to heaven! "That experience was a thrill from the get go. I remember when we first met; I was sitting there surreptitiously trying to sneak a peak at his lip. It sounds really weird, but as a horn player myself, and knowing what the guy could do with a trumpet, I was wondering, 'Does his lip look any different? Does he have extra muscles bulging out somewhere?' "There was one point in the show when I pulled out a bugle, and I kind of surprised him. It was a spontaneous thing. Remember in 1979 we were broadcasting more than five hours of a live drum corps show. It was a very unscripted broadcast, and it didn't have nearly the tight production values that we have now. So I had this soprano bugle tucked away and about halfway through the show as we were under the lights in Birmingham sweating to death, I pulled the bugle out. I said to him, 'Maynard, now I know you do the three valve thing, but have you ever played on one of these?' He held it up, checked it out, and he said, 'No, but I bet you I could!' I had no expectation he was going to pick it up and start wailing on it. I think half of Legion Field turned around and looked at us in awe.
Check out Maynard Ferguson at the end of this clip
taken from the 1979 DCI Legacy Collection DVD.
"Maynard was a great guy to work with. He loved the horns while watching the show. It was all about sound. He was impressed by how our kids moved and could still generate the quality of sound while doing that." Read more about Ferguson on USAtoday.com.

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