He was 78.

Jazz trumpeter and big-band leader Walter "Maynard" Ferguson, famed for his screaming solos and ability to hit blisteringly high notes, has died at age 78, associates said on Thursday.

The Montreal-born Ferguson died on Wednesday at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California, of kidney and liver failure brought on by an abdominal infection.

His four daughters and other family members were at his side when he died.

Ferguson started his career at 13 when he performed as a featured soloist with the Canadian Broadcasting Co. Orchestra.

He played with several of the great big-band leaders of the 1940s and '50s, including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Barnett, Jimmy Dorsey and Stan Kenton, with whom he was a featured performer.

He became known with the Kenton band for being able to hit "ridiculous high notes with ease," according to jazz critic Scott Yarnow.

The Penguin Guide to Jazz says of Ferguson: "There are few sights more impressive in animal physiology than the muscles in Maynard Ferguson's upper thorax straining for a top C.

"... Putting a Ferguson disc on the turntable evokes sensations ranging from walking into a high wind to being run down by a truck," according to the Penguin Guide.

Among Ferguson's best known and most commercially successful recordings were "MacArthur Park" and the "Rocky" movie theme, "Gonna Fly Now."

In 1957, Ferguson formed a regular big band that lasted until 1965. It included a Who's Who of jazz greats as sidemen, including Slide Hampton, Don Ellis, Don Sebesky, Willie Maiden, John Bunch, Joe Zawinul, Joe Farrell and Jaki Byard.

After the band broke up, Ferguson spent time in India and Britain, where he formed a new ensemble. He returned to the United States in 1974 with yet another group often panned by jazz critics for its commercialism.

His later work was praised for its return to the jazz mainstream.