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Taking the A Train To the B Side

February 25th, 2010 by Jessika

We were playing the greats in front of a great.

Somehow, my high school managed to get Maynard Ferguson, a trumpet player known for his killer high notes and be-bop sounds, to play in the auditorium. The high school jazz band had the task of opening up the show.

Here is a clip of Maynard playing MacArthur Park.


A year before Maynard’s concert, the band teacher had recruited me to play tenor saxophone, an instrument that took me a while to warm up to. By my senior year (the year Maynard came), I ended up playing the lead part.

Anyone who has seen me play as a soloist knows how nervous I can get. I shake, my fingers tremble, and I have even nearly hyperventilated.

The night of Maynard’s performance I was exceptionally nervous. I had to play a solo. And while I don’t exactly remember how well it turned out, I do remember the song very well.

It was Duke Ellington’s standard piece “Take the A Train.” While Ellington didn’t write the piece (Billy Strayhorn did), he did make it famous playing it regularly with his band. Watch a version of it below, and let me know what you think of it.


If you want to hear what one the bands I played in sounded like, here is the my undergraduate university’s band. I actually played with them after I graduate. In this clip, I am playing the alto saxophone.


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No Responses to “Taking the A Train To the B Side”

  1. Wow, that Maynard clip was like an encyclopedia of 70s music and styles. It sounds like a cross between Mannix source music and porn soundtrack. The trumpet section looked like they could have been the Monkeys. I liked the keyboard player — loved that old rhodes sound. He had an interesting, innovative sideburns.

    Thanks for posting that.

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