In the current market, Best of collections face an uphill battle even before they hit the shelves. The choices afforded customers by MP3 retail sites should render CD collections obsolete, being that its more frugal to buy the songs you want than to purchase an album with a bunch of already released hits. On a High Note, an amalgamation of standards recorded by Maynard Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau over the past 15 years, is more than just a combination of re-released tunes. Impeachable audio quality and production values that highlight Ferguson’s tight, regimented big band, make this collection as good as a new release. Horn attacks pop, and Ferguson’s squealing high notes—the first of which occurs 47 seconds into “You Got It”, the first track—sound clear and crisp. Though the trumpeter was entering the end of his career when the selections were recorded, and, as a consequence, his high notes lack the luster attained earlier in his career (and occur less frequently), his outstanding soloists make up for any lack of firepower. In addition to making the CD sound fresh, the improved production illuminates the details in each arrangement. Every soloist is heard above ensemble backgrounds, and each part can be picked out of the whole. On “Manteca”, Ferguson’s solo lays on top a bed of rich accompaniment, and every instrument—the walking bass, the busy drums, the involved ensemble movement—is heard clearly. By accomplishing fidelity that MP3s have yet to achieve, this release ensures that Ferguson’s late catalog keeps getting the attention it warrants.
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