Saturday, October 13, 2007

King of New Orleans Jazz - AIM Records

King of New Orleans Jazz

2006 AIM Records AIM-1607

CD Listing:
Pete Fountain with The Basin Street Six

1. High Society
2. That's A Plenty
3. The World is Waiting For The Sunrise
4. Margie
5. Up The Lazy River
6. Mahogany Hall Stomp
7. Farewell Blues

Pete Fountain with The New Orleans All Stars

8. Sensation Rag
9. Sunset In Paradise
10. In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree
11. Bayou Blues
12. Jazz Me Blues
13. Bugle Call Rag
14. St. James Infirmary
15. When The Saints Go Marching In

Liner Notes:

Pete Fountain was the last of the great New Orleans clarinetists. He will be forever linked to the Traditional Jazz revival of the 1950s, but he was far more steeped in the tradition than his contemporaries in that movement. Born in New Orleans in 1930, he came by his Jazz training at the source, on the streets of the Big Easy. Pete picked up the clarinet at age nine and studied under Professor John Hyman (aka "Johnny Wiggs" in the nightclubs). His influences were Barney Bigard, George Lewis, Bennie Goodman and Irving Fazola (who played with local legend Louis Prima). In high school he got serious about music and "Basin Street Blues" became Pete's signature tune. By 1948 he was performing with the semi-pro Junior Dixieland Band before joining Phil Zito's group the following year.

From 1950-1954, Pete led The Basin Street Six, a band that also featured legendary trumpet player/vocalist George Girard, along with Joe Rotis on trombone, Roy Zimmerman on piano, Buddy Franks on bass and Charlie Duke on drums. The group was very popular around New Orleans and soon landed a recording contract with Circle Records, a local label that also released sides by Lizzie Miles and her New Orleans Boys, Billy Butterfield, Jonah Jones and reissues of classic Jazz. They recorded an LP, "Dixieland From New Orleans" for the company in 1950 before moving over to the 504 label to record the album "Dixieland Jazz Concert" in 1951, and finally signed with the much bigger Mercury imprint in 1952. For Mercury they recorded a handful of singles and the LP "Strictly Dixie". Pete Fountain was on his way.

In 1955 Pete joined The Dukes Of Dixieland, a group led by brothers Frank and Fred Assunto (on trumpet and trombone respectively). The Dukes had been the house band at the Famous Door nightclub since 1950 and were New Orleans fixtures. With the Dukes Of Dixieland, Pete recorded for Vik and RCA in 1955 and Audio Fidelity in 1956. This was a very high profile gig and Pete soon got an offer to go to New York to become a featured soloist on The Lawrence Welk Show. From 1957 to 1959, he was in millions of Americans homes thanks to this popular network television program. Fountain signed with Coral Records, with whom he recorded from 1959 to 1965, and earned three gold record awards during this period. He wasn't happy musically with Welk though, and returned to New Orleans in 1960 to open his own nightclub. The fame afforded by Lawrence Welk and network TV made it an instant success and he continued to run and perform at his club until his retirement in 2003.

The 1960s and 1970s saw Pete's fame grow by leaps and bounds. He was a regular on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show and his recordings with AI Hirt were very popular (if less than artistically satisfying). His best records were recorded for Coral and his work after 1965 became increasingly commercial. He was prolific though, releasing over 90 albums in the course of his career. The eighties and nineties saw him slowing down and spending more time in New Orleans and doing some Jazz festival appearances. He still performs occasionally and lives in his beloved New Orleans.

The recordings on this CD are from Pete's pre-commercial era and are some of his best. The first seven tracks are from his stay at Circle Records in 1950 with the Basin Street Six. The second half of the CD features seven tracks that are some of Fountain's earliest as a leader. They are from 1957 and feature The New Orleans All Stars, including Buck Clayton on trumpet, Bud Freeman on saxophone and Vic Dickenson on trombone. And on the live recordings the band is comprised of Tony Almerico on trumpet, Jack Delaney on trombone, Roy Zimmerman on piano, Frank Frederico on guitar, Lester Bouchan on saxophone, Joe Loyacano on bass and Johnny Castain on drums. All were recorded in New Orleans, the cradle of Jazz.

- Fred James 2006

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