Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Mr. Stick Man - Coral Records

Mr. Stick Man

1965 Coral Records CRL 757473 Stereo / CRL 57473 Mono

Side One
1. Gotta Travel On
2. Amazon
3. Whipped Cream
4. Another World
5. Humbug
6. On The Street Where You Live

Side Two
1. Jambalaya (On The Bayou)
2. The Whiffenpoof Song (Baa Baa Baa)
3. Mr. Stick Man
4. Goodbye
5. Show Me A City Like New Orleans
6. The Sound Of Music

Liner Notes:

Clarinet Solos With Chorus And Orchestra Directed by Charles "Bud" Dant

Mr. Stick Man?
None other than the magician of the licorice stick, Pete Fountain. Who else?

The applause for Pete's album, Licorice Stick (Coral 57460), was so loud and long, and the cries of "Encore!" so many and insistent, that this collection has been prepared and programmed in a somewhat similar fashion. There are show tunes, standards, blues and originals. There are strong guitar rhythms,vocal groups of four and six voices - including, again, the Jordanaires - and the clarinet, the potent black stick that stirs all the other ingredients and is at once their spice and raison d'etre. Withal, there are surprises in the way of tempo, mood, treatment and melody.

The melody, somewhere, has always been axiomatic in New Orleans music,
and its presentation traditionally an audience's right. It is, indeed, a kind of courtesy in which Pete Fountain, like his storied predecessors, strongly believes. The melody is always stated - at length if it is worthy - as a point of departure, before the variations and any abandoned swinging begin. This is one of the secrets of Pete's great popularity, but it is lost today on those who believe that in jazz improvisation is all. To phrase the melody neatly, tastefully, and with perhaps rather more rhythmic emphasis than the composer originally envisioned, is an art, too, and one which sets feet tapping and spirits rising. In fact, Pete achieves instant communication by a mode of expression that is remarkable for its clarity and directness. Those who wish may make a virtue out of the complex and obscure, but his way is warm and unpretentious. He says what he has to say pithily and genially, as though he were among friends whom he did not have to impress, and it is this unaffected quality in his playing which constantly wins him new admirers.

Gotta Travel On, with which the album opens, is a case in point. A rousing number of traditional character at up tempo, it has a strong beat from the drums and alternating choruses by Pete and the vocal group. The performance, which incidentally contains four key changes, rolls from beginning to end in a fashion that is likely to have you lifting the pick-up back a few times until you remember...well, yes, you "gotta travel on" too, to Amazon for a change of pace and mood. Complete with tropical birdcalls and the voices of the Jordanaires, this is an exotic novelty of a kind not attempted by Pete before.
The program continues with Whipped Cream, a jubilant, warm and catchy Gay Nineties-like number; Another World, a melodious blending of voices and clarinet; Humbug, an original with a highly danceable beat; and On the Street Where You Live, a fresh and fetching interpretation of the hit from My Fair Lady.

The second side begins with Jambalaya, another happy dance, which is followed by a version of The Whiffenpoof Song that makes a marked contrast. Here the voices provide quiet, wordless backgrounds to the wistful melancholy of Pete's clarinet in a performance that represents a consider-able departure from the usual. Mr. Stick Man is a driving blues with Pete in double time, and guitar, percussion and voices all contributing to an exciting atmosphere. Charles "Bud" Dant's arrangement of Goodbye, Benny Goodman's closing theme, makes beautiful use of Millie Kirkham's attractive voice in obbligato to the clarinet.
Show Me a City Like New Orleans was written for Pete by Laurraine Goreau of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a writer who knows all the local folklore. A twelve-bar blues with an eight-bar bridge, the song and its sentiment are extremely appropriate to the clarinetist, whose affection for his hometown is proverbial. Another show tune, The Sound of Music, brings the album to a gracefully pretty close. No doubt about it, Mr. Stick Man has done it again!


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