Maynard Ferguson was born May 4, 1928. After studying at Montreal's French Conservatory of Music, he led his own band as a teenager in Quebec from 1943 to 1947. As his musical experience widened he became proficient on several instruments in addition to the trumpet including trombone, baritone horn, and french horn. Maynard came to the States in 1949, hoping to join Kenton's orchestra but the band had been temporarily dissolved so instead, he played with the big bands of Boyd Raeburn, Jimmy Dorsey and Charlie Barnett. In 1950, Kenton formed his Innovations Orchestra and Ferguson became a featured soloist. He stayed with Kenton three years, then worked at Paramount Studios playing on such movie soundtracks as "The Ten Commandments,” and with groups both big and small in the Los Angeles area. During the time, he recorded a now classic date, "Dinah Jams,” with Dinah Washington which featured Maynard's trumpet alongside Clark Terry and Clifford Brown.
In 1956, he formed his all-star "Birdland Dreamband," working regularly at the New York club. The following year, he formed a regular group, using Birdland as his base. Skillful use of arrangements allowed the group to create an impression of size. Critics remarked that the 12-piece band he led at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival had all the power and impact of many groups twice its size. This band, which lasted until 1965, recorded regularly for Roulette Records with such players as Slide Hampton, Don Ellis, Don Sebesky, Joe Zawinul, Joe Farrell, and Jaki Byard. The touring band included Wayne Shorter as well. Ferguson’s early 60ss big band was immensely popular.
In the late 60s, after spending time with his family in India, he moved to England, where he recorded with a new band, produced and arranged by Keith Mansfield. A triumphant return to America in 1971 with a group of English musicians introduced the trumpeter to scores of new fans in high schools and colleges across the country and resulted in a contract with an American record label. Ferguson also became regularly involved with jazz education, conducting clinics and Master Classes alongside his appearances worldwide.
During this period, Ferguson reformed his band with American players and cut a series of commercially successful recordings including the theme songs from "Star Wars” and "Rocky,” and a stirring version of "Birdland,” written by former pianist Zawinul. After cutting back on his huge orchestra in the early '80s, Ferguson recorded some bop in a 1983 session, led a funk band called High Voltage during 1987-88 and then returned to jazz full-time with his "Big Bop Nouveau Band," the ten piece outfit with which he still tours the world.