The show is in a very personal size room at the casino, where ever you sit you are close enough to get a great view of the stage. Unlike other times I've seen Pete in larger venues, this was almost like a personal concert. The show starts with a short video detailing Pete's long career. It details his beginnings in grade school, his time with Basin Street Six, Al Hirt, Dukes and other New Orleans bands. It has clips from his final performance on the Lawrence Welk show, some great clips with Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, the Ed Sullivan Show in 1961, his performance before 400,000 when the Pope was in New Orleans, and his appearances with Louis Armstrong and various Presidents at the White House. As the last clips finishes, the band starts playing as the curtain rises.
The set was solid New Orleans/Dixieland style jazz. No vibes or laid back orchestrations, just solid driving jazz! They played for an hour or so. When the curtain rose, you are focused on Pete. As he is playing and the audience is applauding, you can see a glint in his eyes. His eyes were "smiling" and he had a grin as he played. It's obvious he really enjoys performing. While not as mobile as he once was (he is 77 years old), he hasn't lost a step musically and is a joy to watch. His wailing clarinet was as clean as ever. The band, as they each did their solos, were excellent. The piano player Dave Boedinghaus, was incredible, played a real "pumping" piano. Other members, New Orleans legends Conrad 'Connie' Jones on cornet and Oliver "Stick" Felix on bass (been with Pete since 1961), Tom Maggiore on tenor sax, Mike Genevay on trombone, Bryan Barberot on drums and guitarist Allyn Young were all top notch.
Some of the tunes they played were Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?, Basin Street Blues, St. Louis Blues, Just a Closer Walk with Thee, and the grand finale was When the Saints Go Marching In.
After the show, I had the chance to get a picture with Pete and asked him some questions about his career. I mentioned that some of his CD's are going for $50 - $100 these days (Country, Touch of Class, Allegiance Xtra, Christmas is A Comin', etc) He reacted humbly "I'm not worth it!" I asked him what his favorite recording is, he hesitated in specify a particular LP, I suggested I really liked "The Dukes of Dixieland with Pete Fountain" and he agreed "that is a good one." I also gave him the URL to this blog, he mentioned he would take a look and is interested to see what we have here. Let's hope he takes a look and gives some feedback.
If you have a chance, go see Pete perform. He looks good and still sounds great, and has a very good band backing him. I'm glad I made the trip.