Virtuoso trumpeter Maynard Ferguson may not have carried along many of his older D.C. fans, but he has picked up a regiment of younger fans. They packed Blues Alley for both shows last night and were vociferous in their approval of his high-energy orchestra.
This 12-member band may be the ultimate fusion group: It blends big jazz band elements with rock rhythms, and its youthful players double on enough instruments to give the orchestra a variety of colors--all augmented by myriad effects from a synthesizer. It is truly a space-age circus band that entertains and sometimes even swings in its own raucous fashion.
Ferguson played some extraordinary horn, not just up in the stratosphere but also in the middle range with good jazz feeling and true blue expression. Many of the tunes were originals or arrangements by band members, including one number that fused East and West. Ferguson introduced this one with a mantra and then a funereally blue timbre on a combination valve and slide trumpet. Strong solos were handed in by trombonist Steve Wiest, baritone saxiphonist-flutist Denis D'Blasio, tenor saxiphonist Dan Jordan, alto saxiphonist Tim Ries and Ron Pedley at the Steinway.
Ferguson and orchestra remain through Saturday.