Friday, October 5, 2007

Pete Fountain Presents the Best of Dixieland: Louis Armstrong - Verve Records

Pete Fountain Presents the Best of Dixieland: Louis Armstrong

Booklet Below

2001 Verve Records 314549363-2

CD Listing:
1. Back o' Town Blues
2. Basin Street Blues
3. Canal Street Blues
4. New Orleans Function: Flee as a Bird / Oh, Didn't He Ramble
5. Dear Old Southland
6. High Society
7. Mahogany Hall Stomp
8. Muskrat Ramble
9. Panama
10. That's A-Plenty
11. Tin Roof Blues
12. Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
13. Weary Blues
14. When It's Sleepy Time Down South
I5. When the Saints Go Marching In

Louis Armstrong (trumpet, vocal) with Yank Lawson (trumpet); Jack Teagarden, Trummy Young (trombone); Barney Bigard, Johnny Dodds, Edmond Hall, Peanuts Hucko (clarinet); Dick Cary, Earl Hines, Billy Kyle (piano); George Barnes (guitar); Squire Gersh, Arvell Shaw (bass); Danny Barcelona, Sid Catlett, Cozy Cole, Barrett Deems, Baby Dodds (drums); Bob Haggart, Gordon Jenkins, Sy Oliver (arranger, conductor); and others.

Original recordings produced by Milt Gabler and others

"Louis played all kinds of music in his life," observes Pete Fountain,' l like to think that the kind of tunes he liked best were what he called `the good old good ones.' By that he meant the traditional New Orleans repertoire. These were the songs that he grew up playing and that the rest of its pretty much all learned from him."

One aspect of Louis Armstrong's career that is frequently overlooked is his importance as a performer of New Orleans-style Dixieland music. Herein, Armstrong's fellow New Orleans legend Pete Fountain has compiled and annotated a closer look at a unique aspect of the canon of the single most dynamic figure in all of American music.

Liner Notes:

I'll never forget the first time I ever heard Louis Armstrong. In person, I mean. Of course, I had always listened to his records, but the first time I heard him live was really special - especially so because I had the honor of sharing the stage with him! It was around 1948, I was only eighteen years old, and I was playing with the Basin Street Six, my first important band. The New Orleans Jazz Society was sponsoring a big concert at the Municipal Auditorium with Armstrong and his All-Stars. They wanted a young, local band to open for Pops, and to my amazement we got the gig.

I'll also never get over the thrill of what it was like to hear that man and that band, let alone to appear on the same bill as him. The All-Stars were wonderful. Another one of my hometown heroes, Barney Bigard, was on clarinet. Jack Teagarden, the greatest trombonist ever, was also in the group, and Earl "Fatha" Hines was on piano. But it was Louis who kept us all spellbound. He was very complimentary and told us he was surprised at how good we were. We were kind of nervous - who wouldn't be? - and Pops made us feel great by saying that we made it rough for him to follow us! l don't know how he felt about it, but he certainly made our night. And he always remembered that night. Whenever I saw Pops again, he always said, "Remember when you were with that little ol' band in New Orleans - the one that really romped?"

I only met one man who was a bigger fan of Louis than I was, and that was George Girard, our trumpet man with the Basin Street Six. He knew everything that Louis ever played, not just the famous numbers. He based his whole sound on a combination of Louis and Harry James, the same way I based my clarinet sound on a combination of Benny Goodman and Irving Fazola. That's the idea: to take what you like from your idols and keep combining them, and then hopefully it will come out sounding like yourself. All the musicians worshiped Louis, especially the trumpeters, even big stars like Harry James himself. Nobody idolized Louis more than George; Louis was his inspiration. George was a great player and he would have achieved even greater things had he not been killed by cancer just a few years after that concert. He was only twenty-six.

At one time in the early Fifties, Louis asked me if I wanted to come on the road with him. Of course, I would have given anything to go, but I was then a member of the National Guard Reserve and I could not leave Louisiana. A while earlier, Tommy Dorsey had asked me the same thing, if I would play clarinet in his big band. I also had to tell him that I couldn't, and he was furious with me. He screamed, "Whaddya mean, you can't leave New Orleans?" Louis was much nicer about it, but then Louis was nice about everything.

The next time I ran into Louis was in Chicago, around 1954. My old friends Frank and Freddie Assunto had formed a band called the Dukes of Dixieland, and they asked me to join. By that time, my obligation to the National Guard was over, so I could travel wherever I wanted. We had an extended stay in Chicago at a joint called the Preview Lounge. One day we found out that Louis and the All-Stars were playing at the Blue Note, and when he saw us in the audience, he invited Frank, Freddie, and me to come up and sit in with him. Now, that was a thrill I'll never forget, the only time I actually got to play with Louis himself. What a wonderful night of sitting in! That's when Louis really got to know the Assunto brothers. Eventually he would make a record with them, Louis Armstrong and the Dukes of Dixieland. I would have given anything to record with Pops, but it never did work out.

About ten years later, I worked with Louis again, and it was also in Chicago. This was after I had been on The Lawrence Welk Show and had started my own band, which was a sextet featuring four rhythm plus my friend Godfrey Hirsch on vibraphone. (Whenever I wanted to add trumpet or trombone, Godfrey always threatened to quit - he didn't like playing with brass instruments, just reeds and rhythm.) This was at a wonderful place called Orchestra Hall, a beautiful concert hall, like Carnegie, where all the leading symphonic orchestras play when they're in Chicago. Again, I opened the evening with my group, and then Louis came out with the All-Stars. I would have loved to sit in with his band on that show, but it didn't work out. Still, as before, it was an honor to share the program with him.

I never saw Louis other than backstage, but when I did, he was always very kind and friendly; to me and to everyone else. He was always talking about music; he just lived to play and get in front of the people. True to the legend, when it wasn't music he always talked about his diet. He really was a strong advocate of eating red beans and rice, and he handed out packages of his favorite laxative, Swiss Kriss, to everybody - his motto was "Leave it ! all behind ye!" I remember he gave me a package, but I was afraid to try it!

Louis played all kinds of music in his life - with his big band, with strings, popular songs and standards. I like to think that the kind of tunes he liked best were what he called "the good old good ones." By that he meant the traditional New Orleans repertoire. These were the songs that he grew up playing and that the rest of us pretty much all learned from him. Louis was the first to record such traditional religious tunes as "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "The New Orleans Function". The latter piece is actually two times played together as in a traditional New Orleans funeral, with Louis narrating the role of the preacher between the dirge ("Flee as a Bird") and the up-tempo march ("Oh, Didn't He Ramble"). It's priceless the way Pops goes "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust / It's too bad ol' Brother Gate couldn't have stayed on Earth with us!"

But then again, everything that Pops ever played was priceless. I loved him and may God bless him for the legacy that he left us.

- Pete Fountain with Will Friedwald September 2000

Pete Fountain is probably the best-known clarinetist, and certainly one of the best-known traditional jazz musicians, of the last fifty years. With the exception of two years when he served as featured soloist on The Lawrence Welk Show, he has resided in New Orleans his entire life, where he continues to operate and serve as the primary attraction at Pete Fountain's French Quarter km at the New Orleans Hilton. He has recorded nearly 100 albums, including many national best-sellers.

No comments:

Post a Comment