Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Blues - Coral Records

The Blues

1959 Coral Records CRL 757284 Stereo / CRL 57284 Mono

Side 1
1. St. Louis Blues
2. Blue Mountain
3. Columbus Stockade Blues
4. Aunt Hagar's Blues
5. Lonesome Road
6. The Memphis Blues

Side 2
1. My Inspiration
2. Wang Wang Blues
3. Beale Street Blues
4. Wabash Blues
5. Five Point Blues
6. Bayou Blues

Liner Notes:

Pete Fountain
Clarinet Solos with Orchestra directed by Chareles Bud Dant

Trumpets - Mannie Klein, Conrad Gozzo, Art Depew, Shorty Sherock
Trombones - Moe Schneider, William Schaefer, Harold Diner, Peter Lofthouse
Reeds - Jack Dumont, Eddie Miller, Russ Cheever, Babe Russin, William Ulyate
Rhythm - Jack Sperling, drums; Stan Wrightsman, piano; Morty Corb, bass.
Personnel on: ST. LOUIS BLUES - BLUE FOUNTAIN - WANG WANG BLUES Trumpets - Mannie Klein, Conrad Gozzo, Art Depew, Jackie Coon
Trombones - Same as above
Reeds - Wilber Schwartz, Eddie Miller, Babe Russin, Matty Matlock, Chuck Gentry
Rhythm - Same as above.
Trumpets - Ray Linn, Jackie Coon, John Best, Art Depew
Trombones - Same as above
Reeds - Jack Dumont, Russ Cheever, Eddie Miller, Babe Russia, Chuck Gentry
Rhythm - Same as above.

PETE FOUNTAIN IS BACK in jazz where he belongs. The clarinetist from New Orleans has returned home "to swing a little," as he engagingly put it, "and live the life that I know best." Though grateful for the exposure and recognition accorded him while the swinging member of the Lawrence Welk TV family, it became progressively apparent to Fountain, during his two-year tenure with the Welk organization, that the association could not be a lasting one. "I guess champagne and bourbon don't mix," he told a writer from Down Beat Magazine.

"Environment plays a large role in a person's development," say certain influential members of the psychiatric fraternity. Fountain's life story is wholly in harmony with this idea. Jazz has been a part of his experience almost as far back as he can remember. His Dad was a jazz musician; jazz was a frequent subject of conversation among his friends, and the sound of this music, a constant feature in and around the Fountain house. As you know, New Orleans has always had more than its share of jazz, being one of the chief centers, cradles, if you will, of "our" music. Elements peculiar to jazz and jazz performance wherefore to be found there without really looking.

Considering the situation in which Fountain was born and bred, it was almost inevitable that he select an instrument basic to the more traditional forms of jazz. At 12, he began his study of the clarinet - a full-time job ever since - with Mr. Allesandro of the New Orleans Symphony. For nearly seven years, Fountain played and studied before working his first professional job. It was a rather affecting experience. Pete replaced his idol, Irving Fazola, at a strip joint, the night of his death.

"I had to lie about my age," Pete told an interviewer. "After a little while the management found out and fired me, so I started gigging around the city, anywhere I could work."

With the exception of a few trips to Chicago to work at Jazz Limited and the Blue Note, Pete stayed close to home. He worked with a number of New Orleans traditional units, and was quite happy with his lot. In 1957, Welk beckoned, and this relationship that would thrust the clarinetist into the commercial big time began. It ended in 1959, and Down Beat most succinctly expressed the reason: "Jazz is jazz, and square is square, and never the twain shall meet."

Prior to returning to New Orleans to open his own jazz club, The Bateau Lounge on Bourbon Street, Pete cut this album, in itself an emancipation proclamation. He obtained men that he respects and calls "the Hollywood studio elite"; all of whom feel jazz strongly, are flexible, and in the same traditional/swing idiom as Fountain.

"We got the right cats," Pete enthusiastically declared during our phone conversation. "The guys were happy. Mannie Klein enjoyed the dates so much that he brought his wife after the first session to hear the rest. These sessions weren't like recording dates. They were relaxed. All of them should be that way... The real important thing was to get off the ground right away and swing, and I think we did that."

Asked about his style, the general feel of his solos in this presentation, he replied: "I'm trying to combine Fazola's mellow sound with Benny Goodman's drive. Both of these guys are my idols. Yeah, a mellow sound with drive, that gets it!

"Before I forget, I'd like to say a word about the soloists. Eddie Miller, an old favorite of mine, had the tenor solos; John Best and Conrad Gozzo, the trumpet jazz; Moe Schneider was our trombonist; and the mellophone comments were by young Jackie Coon, a West Coast kid who really breaks it up!"

Mention was made of the man with iron lips and leather lungs, one Conrad Gozzo, "the daddy" of lead trumpet men, and drummer Jack Sperling who seems to fit in any musical clime. And then we spoke of the album concept, how appropriate it was considering the situation.

What better way to celebrate a return to jazz than by cutting an album of blues? Pete selected old ones and had some new ones written. All of them, in performance, are blues in feeling; the majority, blues in form, as well. The arrangements by Bud Dant, Frank Scott, Stan Wrightsman, Art Depew and Morty Corb are uncluttered and swinging, show Pete to advantage, and have an unmistakable traditional flavor.

What this writer finds most impressive is the relaxation and lack of pretension about the program. Though there is a big band involved here, an easily recognized sense of rapport typical of small band playing permeates these performances. But that is as it should be, for large jazz bands are most commanding when functioning as a great small unit would. As drummer Mel Lewis said while a member of the Stan Kenton band: "When we can get 18 men `walking' like five, the band is truly swinging."

As for Fountain, himself, I think you'll dig him, for he doesn't try to prove anything with his playing. His only desire is to tell a story through his horn, and most often it is more than ample recompense for the time spent listening.


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