1. While We Danced At The Mardi Gras
2. A Closer Walk
3. Columbus Stockade Blues
4. Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans
5. Fascination Medley: a) Fascination b) Basin Street Blues c) Tin Roof Blues d) Way Down Yonder In New Orleans
6. China Boy (Go To Sleep)
1. When The Saints Come Marching In March
2. St. Louis Blues
3. When My Baby Smiles At Me
4. Shrimp Boats
5. Indiana (Back Home Again In Indiana)
1. Bye Bye Bill Bailey
2. Lazy River
3. Yes Indeed
4. High Society
5. Stranger On The Shore
6. Over The Waves
1. Oh, Lady Be Good
2. You're Nobody 'til Somebody Loves You
3. My Blue Heaven
4. Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet
5. For Pete's Sake Side 1
New Orleans, where Pete Fountain was born and bred, is unique in the United States. It has a colorful history, and it has always affectionately preserved its French heritage, but what makes it a kind of Mecca to people all over the world is the fact that no other city has such strong claims to being the birthplace of jazz.
The origins of jazz have been the subject of many ingenious theories and many intriguing legends, but there is no doubt that New Orleans always possessed an unusually rich musical culture. A cosmopolitan port. it was the meeting place of several different idioms that fused to give the twentieth century its most significant and appropriate music.
In the scaled-down instrumentation which New Orleans jazz musicians adapted from the familiar brass bands. the clarinet had a vital role, and it was from this role that the main emphasis on improvisation in jazz developed. In the traditional ensemble. the clarinet had more freedom than any of the other instruments. The responsibilities of the trumpet and trombone, for example. were firmly defined, but above and around them the clarinet was free to embellish and improvise. In exercising this prerogative, the New Orleans clarinetists attained a supremacy that was not challenged for many years. They also developed a recognizable style and, in several cases. remarkable virtuosity.
The honor roll of names is long, and such clarinetists as Jimmie Noone, Sidney Bechet, Larry Shields, Alphonse Picou, Sidney Arodin, Leon Roppolo, Barney Bigard, Johnny Dodds, Omer Simeon, Irving Fazola and Albert Nicholas, not forgetting the great teacher, Lorenzo Tio, Jr., wrote a glorious page in jazz history. Others, like Buster Bailey of Memphis and Darnell Howard of Chicago, assimilated the essential characteristics of the New Orleans style, which was subsequently modified by Benny Goodman and others.
At a time when the clarinet has tended to wane in popularity, it is noteworthy that New Orleans remains a clarinet town. The sound of the instrument wails out of club after club every night of the week on Bourbon Street, and not least from that flourishing establishment, Pete Fountain's French Quarter Inn.
That the clarinet tradition has survived so strongly in New Orleans is not due to insularity on the part of its musicians. They, after all, were among the first to disseminate the jazz message, traveling extensively throughout the world after World War I, as many have continued to do ever since. They proved adaptable to changing conditions and contexts, while always retaining an identifiable spirit in their playing. Today, they are affected by the same pressures, competition and radio programming as musicians of other cities, but the attitude of their audiences is decidedly different. In the Crescent City, music, particularly jazz, is associated with a good time. The inexplicable longueurs and aberrations that are inflicted on per-missive listeners in jazz clubs elsewhere are seldom tolerated there.
The recordings in this set reflect that attitude, and render Pete Fountain's popularity easily understand-able. His music is indeed musicianly, but it is not pretentious. Nor is it ever presented as a mystery or a misery. The moods and tempos vary, but the spirit of enjoyment is fundamental.
Pierre Dewey La Fontaine, Jr., was born in 1930. In due course, finding a need for a more concise name, he became Pete Fountain. His father had played several instruments as an avocation, and he encouraged his son's interest in music. Before he entered his teens, Pete had begun to study clarinet at Johnny Wiggs's State Band School of Music. He showed such natural instinct and aptitude for the instrument that in a very short time he was far ahead of the other pupils. He further developed his style and technique in the time-honored jazz fashion by "sitting in" and "jamming" with bands on Bourbon Street. He studied the work of such prominent jazzmen as Eddie Miller, Charlie Teagarden, Bobby Hackett and Ray Bauduc, and most particularly that of his idol, clarinetist Irving Fazola.
His first professional date came when he was 16,when Fazola died. He took Fazola's chair in a French Quarter band, and the blues tributes he blew for his friend and teacher that night were the making of yet another legend.
In 1948, when he had completed his schooling, he joined the Junior Dixieland Band, which won a talent contest and toured the United States. His reputation was growing apace, and after playing in Phil Zito's Dixieland Band, he helped form the Basin Street Six in 1950. This combination played in New Orleans and the area around for three years. He next joined the Dukes of Dixieland and went to Chicago for several months, but he returned home when the group set out on a national tour. Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans is a song with a title of more than ordinary significance to the native son.
There followed a brief hiatus in his musical career when he joined the "day people" in a 9-to-5 job. This move was primarily made because the musician's life separated him from his wife, Beverly, whom he had married in 1950. Music continued to call, however, and after their first child was born he organized a band for an engagement at Dan's Pier 600 on Bourbon Street, where, with the aid of several successful records, his reputation resumed its interrupted expansion.
In the summer of 1956, Pete scored a tremendous success at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, which led to an invitation from Lawrence Welk to make guest appearances on TV. The offer he subsequently accepted for two weeks turned into an engagement lasting two years! The response of home viewers was phenomenal, but eventually the urge to play his own way became too strong.
"I guess champagne and bourbon just don't mix," he said. "Don't get me wrong - Welk is a wonderful man and his TV show did plenty for me. But I just couldn't play the kind of music I wanted to."
Back in New Orleans, he obtained an interest in his friend Dan Levy's Bateau Lounge on the street he loves best - Bourbon Street. Soon he had his own well-appointed and successful club, the French Quarter Inn, and in due course he became the owner of a 35-acre ranch a half-hour outside the city.
Happy to live his life in New Orleans, which he leaves somewhat reluctantly for concert and TV appearances, Pete has done much to secure recognition - and an aura of "respectability" - for jazz. It was always supported by the masses, but he succeeded in winning over the city's social, cultural and business leaders as well. When Pete Fountain Day was eventually proclaimed in New Orleans, the festivities concluded with a torch-light parade and concert.
In 1968, with Mayor Schiro's blessing and backing, the city put on its first full-scale jazz festival. Theweek-long "jazzfest" began with a Mass for deceased jazz musicians in St. Louis Cathedral. Then the bands marched through the streets, played to 2500 people on the riverboat President, and performed before enormous audiences in the Municipal Auditorium.
Jazz had come full circle. The parent style was well represented by local musicians, prominent among whom were Pete Fountain and his enlarged band from the French Quarter Inn. There, too, were the "children" from overseas, and the famous bands of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Woody Herman (each with its clarinet player), which had re-translated and expanded upon the gospel the first disciples took out of the city four decades before.
This collection of recordings, made between 1959 and 1967, illustrates many facets of Pete Fountain's musical personality. As he told writer Burt Korall, he seeks "to combine Fazola's mellow sound with Benny Good-man's drive," and these qualities are evident as he plays in the many different contexts devised for him by producer Charles Bud Dant.
On half the titles, he is heard as soloist with a rhythm section that is occasionally supplemented by Godfrey Hirsch's skillful vibes playing. While this affords him maximum freedom, it also charges him with maximum responsibility. Just how adroitly he walks the tightrope between them is happily audible on such classics of the New Orleans repertoire as When The Saints Come Marching In March, A Closer Walk, While We Danced At The Mardi Gras and Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans.
Other performances like Columbus Stockade Blues and St. Louis Blues find him in front of a band and arrangements that recall those of Bob Crosby, with whom Irving Fazola made his name internationally famous. Heinie Beau's arrangement of Over The Waves, with its knowing use of tuba and four drummers, recreates the sound of the parade bands that are such a feature of New Orleans life. Sy Oliver's famous Yes Indeed becomes a neat essay in gospelry as Pete's clarinet is answered by a 14-piece choir. In between an excursion to Nashville for You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You, and to Hamburg for Bert Kaempfert's For Pete's Sake, there are a whole lot of evergreen jazz standards. And by way of salutes to other clarinetists, there are Lazy River (for Sidney Arodin), When My Baby Smiles At Me (for Ted Lewis), High Society (for Alphonse Picou), and Stranger On The Shore (for Acker Bilk).
The clarinet is one of the hardest instruments to play, but when the inevitable campaign to "bring back the clarinet" begins, it will be well to remember that it has never been out of favor in New Orleans - in Pete's Place.
- STANLEY DANCE
(A) Stan Wrightsman, piano; Morty Corb, bass; Jack Sperling, drums. 16 February, 1959.
(B) As above. 17 February, 1959.
(C) As above. 24 February, 1959.
(D) Shorty Sherock, Conrad Gozzo, Arthur Depew, Manny Klein, trumpets; Moe Schneider, Bill Schaefer, Harold Diner, Peter Lofthouse, trombones; Jack Dumont, Eddie Miller, Russell Cheever, Babe Russin, William Ulyate, reeds; Stan Wrightsman, piano; Marty Corb, bass; Jack Sperling, drums. 10 March, 1959.
(E) Manny Klein, Jack Coon, Arthur Depew, Conrad Gozzo, trumpets; Moe Schneider, Bill Schaefer, Harold Diner, Peter Lofthouse, trombones; Wilbur Schwartz, Eddie Miller, Matty Matlock, Babe Russin, Charles Gentry, reeds; Stan Wrightsman, piano; Morty Corb, bass; Jack Sperling, drums. 11 March, 1959.
(F) Godfrey Hirsch, vibes; Merle Koch, piano; Donald Bagley, bass; Jack Sperling, drums. 26 October, 1959.
(G) Conrad Gozzo, Art Depew, Johnny Best, George Thow, trumpets; Moe Schneider, Bill Schaefer, Joe Howard, Peter Lofthouse, trombones; Wilbur Schwartz, Plas Johnson, Babe Russin, Eddie Miller, Charles Gentry, reeds; Stan Wrightsman, piano; Morty Corb, bass; Jack Sperling, drums. 8 April, 1960.
(H) Stan Wrightsman, piano; Morty Corb, bass; Jack Sperling, drums. 9 August, 1960.
(I) As (H), plus Godfrey Hirsch, vibes. 17 August, 1960.
(J) Stan Wrightsman, piano; Bobby Gibbons, guitar; Morty Corb, bass; Jack Sperling, drums. 30 June, 1961.
(K) Godfrey Hirsch, vibes; Stan Wrightsman, piano; Bobby Gibbons, guitar; Morty Corb, bass; Jack Sperling, drums; and 14-voice mixed chorus. 9 September, 1961.
(L) Charlie Teagarden, trumpet; Moe Schneider, trombone; Eddie Miller, tenor saxophone; Stan Wrightsman, piano; Bobby Gibbons, guitar; Morty Corb, bass; Jack Sperling, drums. 9 November, 1961.
(M) Godfrey Hirsch, vibes; John Probst, piano; Bobby Gibbons, guitar; Morty Corb, bass; Jack Sperling, drums. 6 September, 1962.
(N) Richard Noel, Lew McCreary, Bill Schaefer, George Roberts, Moe Schneider, trombones; Jack Coon, trumpet; Bobby Gibbons, guitar; Morty Corb, bass; Phil Stephens, tuba; Jack Sperling, Paul Barbarin, Nick Fatool, Godfrey Hirsch, drums. 23 March, 1963.
(0) Jack Coon, trumpet; Moe Schneider, trombone; John Probst, piano; Bobby Gibbons, guitar; Morty Corb, bass; Phil Stephens, tuba; Jack Sperling, Paul Barbarin, Nick Fatool, Godfrey Hirsch, drums. 23 March, 1963.
(P) Godfrey Hirsch, vibes; Earl Vuiovich, piano; Paul Guma, guitar; Oliver Felix, bass; Nick Fatool, Paul Edwards, drums. 8 February, 1964.
(Q) Boots Randolph, alto saxophone; Floyd Cramer, piano; Bob Moore, bass; Harold Bradley, Ray Edenton, guitars; Paul Edwards, drums; and The Jordanaires. 17 October, 1964.
(R) Stan Wrightsman, piano; Morty Corb, bass; Jack Sperling, drums. 30 August, 1966.
(S) Orchestra with vocal sextet, arranged by Herbert Rehbein. 10 October,1967.