Canadian trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist Maynard Ferguson was a child prodigy. He started playing violin and piano at the age of four, and continued to pursue his passion for music growing up, earning a scholarship to the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal, which was where he grew up. Later in his life he moved to the United States and intended to play for Stan Kenton’s organisation and orchestra, as he would have been a good fit to play in the brass section of the group. Ferguson gained popularity amongst Kenton and the group, and continued to thrive under his leadership throughout the early fifties. He left Kenton in 1953 to become a session player for Paramount Pictures, but soon found out that his contract prevented him from playing in jazz clubs, thus he left in 1956. Throughout the late fifties and early sixties, Maynard moved around a lot, seeking new opportunities and experiences within the United States, in India and the UK. Finally settling back to the US in 1971, he started recording studio albums.
His 1977 album Conquistador, released on Colombia Records was his most popular and successful project, being his first and only gold record and earning him a Grammy Nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Performance) for “Gonna Fly Now (Theme from “Rocky”).”Despite the major popularity of the theme for Rocky, there are other gems in Conquistador that are equally as impressive in energy, progression and pure musicality. Madlib decided to sample “Mister Mellow” (track two) on two separate occasions at two completely different time periods.
The first time was back in 1999 for the classic Lootpack album Soundpieces: Da Antidote! and more specifically on one of my personal favourite cuts “Whenimondamic.” The ever so subtle key note at the beginning of Maynard’s classic is interpolated into the dynamic, crazy rhythms of the beat. The second time was back in 2012 for Shame EP with Freddie Gibbs, more specifically the track “Terrorist.” The bassline from Maynard’s original was sampled beautifully into the smooth and soothing beat for Freddie to tell his story on. A brilliant way to use and sample such a beautiful, angelic and lush track as “Mister Mellow,” which has George Benson on guitar and is produced by film composer Jay Chattaway. You can listen to the original track below.
Listen to Lootpack’s “Whenimondamic” from their 1999 debut album titled Soundpieces: Da Antidote! released on Stones Throw Records.
Listen to Madlib & Freddie Gibbs’ “Terrorist” off their 2012 collaborative project Shame EP released on Madlib Invazion.
You can find purchase information for all records over on discogs.com.