Monday, April 30, 2007

Lawrence Welk Presents Pete Fountain Clarinetist - Coral Records

Lawrence Welk Presents Pete Fountain Clarinetist

1959 Coral Records CRL 757200 Stereo / CRL 57200 Mono

Side One
1. When My Baby Smiles At Me
2. Summertime
3. If I Had You
4. La Vie En Rose
5. On The Alamo
6. Tiger Rag

Side Two
1. I Want A Girl (Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Old Dad)
2. Dancing In The Dark
3. My Blue Heaven
4. That Old Feeling
5. I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover
6. Hindustan

Liner Notes:

It was in the Fall of 1956 that three New Orleans musicians journeyed to the West Coast for the annual Gene Norman-Frank Bull Jazz Festival. They were veteran trumpet-man Al Hirt; a fourteen-year-old phenomenon on trumpet, Warren Luning, Jr.; and another veteran from the New Orleans jazz scene, clarinetist Pete Fountain. Among those in the audience that proceeded to flip over the playing of the New Orleans visitors was young Lawrence Welk, Jr. Forthwith he goes to the old man and says, "Dad, this you've gotta hear!" (Or words of similar import.) So Larry, Sr. put down his accordion, turned off the bubble-machine, and made the trip to the auditorium where the jazz bash was being held; and that night an idea was born. To wit: why not build a dixieland contingent from the Welk Orchestra around Pete Fountain, and feature him regularly, both at the dance sessions and on the weekly television broadcasts?

Thus it was that Pete Fountain left Al Hirt's band a few months after their return to New Orleans to accept an offer from Lawrence Welk that was (in Pete's words) "too good to turn down." It wasn't an easy decision to make, however, as Pete's father (the family name is Fontaine, the French for "fountain") had played drums and violin in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast - and Pete had grown up in the dixieland tradition even before he started playing clarinet in a school band when he was twelve years old.

By the time he was in his late 'teens he was playing with a Junior Dixieland Band that was featured regularly at Tony Almerico's Sunday afternoon sessions at the Parisian Room on Royal Street; and eventually became a member of the regular band there. In big demand by the customers were the specialty numbers featuring Pete Fountain and his Three Coins - clarinet and rhythm. Other New Orleans bands with which Pete has played were Phil Zito's band (he recorded with this group for a major label when he was nineteen) and a cooperative group, The Basin Street Six. It was with the latter outfit that he made several trips to Chicago for engagements at such top spots as The Blue Note and Jazz Limited.

The heart of dixieland music, of course, is improvisation; and as a result, Pete didn't find it necessary to be able to read music with any degree of proficiency. Rather, he was more interested in improving his technique and ability to get around on his horn - and in listening to records featuring Irving Fazola (his idol on clarinet), and those featuring tenor-saxophonist Eddie Miller. (Pete plays fine tenor, too.) "Faz" and Eddie, like Pete, were born and raised in "The Cradle of Jazz", as New Orleans has been called. Although Pete admittedly has been strongly influenced by Fazola, there are times when I've heard him swinging like mad on some up-tempo thing and I'm reminded of Goodman; and on the other hand, on a soft, pretty number I sometimes hear a touch of Shaw in his warm, liquid tone - even in the upper register. For example, in "Dancing In The Dark."

Since joining the Lawrence Welk Orchestra as a featured soloist, Pete has taken advantage of the opportunity to study on the west coast - an opportunity which the mature Pete Fountain realized was a valuable one in keeping with his desire to grow musically. He is almost twenty-eight years old - his birthday being the day before Louis Armstrong's, but Pete was born thirty years after Louis, on July 3, 1930.

Although it is essentially the Welk Orchestra backing Pete in this album, the arrangements are not of the "Champagne Music" style, but were written especially for the session. Neither is it a jazz album. Rather it is designed for dancing, with an easily identifiable beat, and tempos well-suited for dancing. Only two of the selections, "Tiger Rag" and "Hindustan," are usually associated with typical dixieland fare. There are echoes of yesteryear in the Ted Lewis-like "wah-wah" on "When My Baby Smiles At Me," and "I Want A Girl;" a hint of the French influence in New Orleans, and Fountain's own lineage in "La Vie En Rose;" and the familiar and always-welcome standards "On The Alamo", "Summertime", and "My Blue Heaven."

So tell your friends to hop in the new Dodge (plug!) and come on over for a bit of dancing - and some mighty pleasant listening!

Dick Martin
(Station WWL, New Orleans)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pete Fountain's New Orleans - Coral Records

Pete Fountain's New Orleans

1959 Coral CRL 757282 Stereo / CRL 57282 Mono

Side One
1. While We Danced At The Mardi Gras
2. A Closer Walk
3. When The Saints Come Marching In March
4. When It's Sleepy Time Down South
5. Ol' Man River
6. Cotton Fields

Side Two
1. Sweethearts On Parade
2. Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans
3. Basin Street Blues
4. Lazy River
5. Way Down Yonder In New Orleans
6. Tin Roof Blues

Liner Notes:

Clarinet Solos with Rhythm Accompaniment

No matter how far upstream jazz may have come from New Orleans, there exists a nostalgia, in some cases a reverence, in most minds, for that early cradle of American music. And, as a general rule, New Orleans musicians help to perpetuate that nostalgia and reverence. They live on streets with wonderful names. They study in time-honored tradition. They begin their professional lives in a flamboyant manner. Then they work on other streets with even more wonderful names. And, at least since that first wave or two, which went to Chicago, they just never want to leave home.

Pete Fountain is a New Orleans musician and he fits that pattern in a manner almost too good to be true.

Born there in 1930 (July 3rd), he studied clarinet with Mr. Allessandra of the New Orleans Symphony. Although he played jazz during those early years, it wasn't until he was nineteen that he worked his first professional jazz job. "It was the night that Fazola died. They needed someone to substitute for him, so I took his job in a strip place." That was an odd coincidence, because Irving Fazola, another New Orleans musician who didn't like to leave home, and Benny Goodman were the two greatest influences on Fountain ("my two real idols") , and they still are, as is evident in his playing.

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

Then, several years ago, Pete did leave New Orleans, and Lawrence Welk confused his listeners and watchers somewhat by hiring Pete as a soloist, presenting him once an evening with a small unit from the band in some jazz selection.

This viewer at least (and I have always been a steady customer, because the Lawrence Welk program is continually the best comedy show on television) was disturbed by Welk's perpetuation of the age-old legend that jazzmen couldn't read music. He even apologized to his audience in that way one evening, in explaining away Pete's seeming inactivity during most of the band numbers. But audience reaction was enthusiastic and Pete gratefully acknowledges the debt which he owes to Welk for his current jazz success.

In 1957, I finally had the opportunity to hear Fountain without Welk, when he sat-in with the Bobby Hackett sextet in the Voyageur Room. He was already beginning to feel the pinch of once-a-week jazz, and his enthusiasm that night was contagious, and so was his playing.

Perhaps that was the breaking point, for, although he stayed with Welk for a year after that, he had begun to collect train, bus and plane schedules from anywhere to New Orleans.

This year the urge became too strong and back he went. Now he lives on Annunciation Street and works in a club called the Bateau Lounge on Bourbon Street (what did I tell you about those names?).

He has "a small interest in that club. Hey, you know what, we play six hours a night, and the place is packed from nine until one practically every night. You know that puts a little bread on the table" (all of this in less of a Southern accent than has Shorty Rogers).

During the day he's still studying: "There's always so much more to learn." But at night, for six hours, with just a rhythm section, he makes the bread that goes on the table, believing that by the time that all the publicity from the Welk show comes to an end, he may be lucky enough to have built a sufficient reputation of his own.

"There's still quite a bit of jazz in New Orleans, you know. In proportion, we probably have more than you have in New York City. We certainly have more than in Los Angeles. On Bourbon Street alone, there's seven Dixieland bands. Plus me. You know, me and the rhythm. We just swing away."

That, this album will show. With pianist Stan Wrightsman, bassist Morty Corb and drummer Jack Sperling, all of them free-wheeling swingers, Pete demonstrates what has been a long time developing in this guided tour through his musical life - that Pete Fountain is a wonderful clarinetist, a member of that old school of warm, personally communicative musicians whose playing denies a dateline. What can be heard here is an excellent musician, accompanied by other excellent musicians, playing songs that are as familiar as the seasons of the year, allowing talent and artistry to grace each with that pleasant freshness that each season brings.

But now I am getting carried away by words, and the temptation is strong to close with some play on his name, such a wonderful one for a jazz musician. I thought for the moment that such a working of his name into the album title would be especially fitting. But Pete Fountain's New Orleans is probably the best name that there could be for this collection. If You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans, you'll know how happy he is to be back. And this is the eminently satisfying music of a happy man.

Bill Coss

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.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Pete Fountain Day - Coral Records

Pete Fountain Day

Below is the 4 page inside booklet

1960 Coral CRL 757313 Stereo /CRL 57313 Mono
Side One
1. I Got Rhythm
2. Ja-Da
3. China Boy ( Go Sleep )
4. Avalon
5. Shine

Side Two
1. Tiger Rag
2. Don't Be That Way
3. Poor Butterfly
4. Someday Sweetheart
5. 's Wonderful

Liner Notes:

The New Orleans Jazz Club Presents PETE FOUNTAIN DAY
Recorded During Actual Performance At The Municipal Auditorium, New Orleans

"Home is where the heart is," said a wise man. Pete Fountain knows this to be true. The clarinetist has lived and played in other cities, but all roads lead back to the Crescent City. There, he is king; there, he is happiest.

For those who love and are faithful, there's always a day. Pete had his on October 29, 1959. New Orleans paid him homage, with a concert at the Municipal Auditorium capping festivities.

Drummer Jack Sperling, his two bass drums, various smaller drums and cymbals, and ex-Stan Ken-ton bassist, Don Bagley, were flown in from Holly-wood for the occasion. After taking in the sights and sounds of the city, the two West Coasters met with Pete and his New Orleans colleagues, vibist Godfrey Hirsch and pianist Merle Koch. The group talked things over before the concert, exchanged pleasantries, then sat down and wailed. It was as simple as that.

The music??? Emotional and communicative are the first words that come to mind. For those among you who are prone to categorization, it was small group jazz in the relaxed yet incisively swinging manner native to the best of Benny Goodman's chamber groups - a refinement, an extension, if you will, of the type of music spawned in New Orleans.

Though the group had not performed together before, there was a surprising sense of rapport about the proceedings. Counter-lines, unisons and riffs were dashed off with precision and feeling; the rhythm section flowed, followed and underlined, often in an almost intuitive way.

Pete was the lead/dominant voice; he carried the ball and obviously had one as well. "Pete's a playin' fool," said a friend of mine who attended the concert. "Challenged, even pressed by the excellence of those around him, he played better than ever."

The three prime voices in the unit - Fountain, Hirsch and Koch - lined up well. All three have traditional leanings. As a result, their solos, fills, etc., were of a kind, and all the more invigorating for that.

"And that drummer!" insisted my friend, "he (Jack Sperling) really broke things up with his great solos and rhythm playing. He made the group swing hard-and the entire audience reacted strongly."

It was a memorable, lifting, musical evening in New Orleans ...

Co-Editor, THE JAZZ WORD (Ballantine)


In New Orleans

In the year 1796, the first resident opera company in America settled in New Orleans, and while the first performance was transpiring inside the theater in French Town, Negro slaves stood outside at their masters' carriages and sang their own music, the blues laments for a homeland from which they had been forceably taken.

Thus began a quiet battle between the two kinds of music in New Orleans, a fight that was to continue for more than 160 years and would not be resolved completely until a rainy night in October of 1959. Music, however, was not all of the battle.

By the time Louisiana became a part of the American states in 1803, New Orleans already was known as the wickedest city in the world, and if this reputation was spawned in the era of the Creole plantation owners and their carefree love of play, their descendents kept it going from one generation to another.

The great town houses and plantations in and around New Orleans supported the most elegant life America ever has known, but every night when the sun dipped below the banks of the muddy Mississippi, the highborn men left their wives to seek the fun and ribaldry of the back streets.

This world that care forgot existed through the War of 1812 even when the city was menaced by the British and was saved only through a last-ditch campaign by General Andrew Jackson and the pirate Jean Lafitte.

It existed right through the Civil War, and even the Yankee capture of the city had little effect on the lavish and sinful way of life. It was at this time, as a matter of fact, that the music which was to become America's only original contribution to the music of the world began to take its first shape. In the brothels which catered to the Union troops, Negro attendants began to play musical instruments to pass the time and entertain, and before long, the customers found they liked this plaintive, sad music with its paradoxical gaiety which came forth from this race so newly freed from bondage.

After the war came a time of confusion. The Negroes were free, but they were so thoroughly tied economically to their masters that freedom was more of a challenge and a problem than it was a blessing. There was no place a Negro could find employment except in the whore houses. It was natural that he would wind up there.

On Bourbon Street, the French Opera House, built just before the Civil War and the finest such edifice in the world at that time, flourished. So did the new music, but if the former owners no longer could control the Negroes at least they could hold in disdain all his efforts to better himself, and the music quickly fell under the shadow of this bitterness.

By the dawn of the 20th century, this simple music was well-established and even white bands began to play it. The clubs spread from Storyville on Basin Street over into the Bourbon Street area, under the very shadows of the French Opera House.

By this time, New Orleans was a thriving metropolis, having shed itself of the last memories of the War Between the States and the Carpet bagger era that followed. It still was a city of sin, of corrupt politics, of narrow streets and romantic patios, of magnolias scenting the night air as the gentle (breath of) breeze wafted up from
the Mississippi and spread its cooling effects over the city.

Canal Street, widest main street in the world, still served as a border between "French Town" which by now was called the French Quarter or Vieux Carre, and the uptown population rarely ventured downtown other than to attend the opera or to dine at one of the famous restaurants - Galatoire's, Antoine's, Arnauds' or Tujague's.

Just as the American tourist began discovering Storyville and its jazz environment a double tragedy struck New Orleans. A clean-up campaign, one of those periodic political ventures which Orleanians see occasionally and scorn totally, was directed at Storyville, and the bands began migrating.

They went forth into the nation to spread the Dixieland gospel and to spread the fame of this music. As though the whole episode was but a signal, even the white bands began hitting the road. It was not long before the proud Creole families rebelled at the purge and what it was doing to their pleasure spas, but it was too late.

At the same time, in December of 1919, the French Opera House burned, and if this had been a symbol of the domination of one kind of music, the domination began to die with the destruction of the symbol. Jazz was on the march, and if the city still rejected it, the world did not. The musicians stole away north in the night, and the rest of the land soon accepted it.

Through the years, jazz developed. Ragtime, swing, bop, modern jazz and even symphonic jazz came into being in other parts of the world, finally achieving recognition as an art form. But New Orleans still turned a cold and haughty shoulder and deaf ear to its plea for recognition.

One of the Quarter's special prides, the delightfully crazy maze of wrought-iron grillwork is everywhere along the charm strewn streets. Carefully maintained, the intricately designed balustrades cast shadows of a bygone era across the modern tail-finned autos that pass beneath.

"Home is where the heart is" - after a year of gaining national fame, Fountain returned home to play his own kind of music. With the help of Dan Levy, who operates several New Orleans jazz places, Pete opened the Bateau Lounge - now a magnet for musicians-at-large, jazz-buffs and dowagers, too.

Tourists (and musicians) have always flocked to "The City that care forgot..."

A few jazz groups performed on in the clubs along Bourbon Street, but theirs was a success measured chiefly in terms of the number of tourists who happened into town. This was not always a small success because tourists always have flocked to "the City that Care Forgot," particularly at Mardi Gras, when the whole town goes crazy for pageantry and fun. Some of these groups even made periodic recordings which got attention abroad from New Orleans.

Once in a while other musicians would get together for recording sessions, and the records often were hits everywhere other than in New Orleans.

In 1948, the New Orleans Jazz club decided to present an annual concert in a plan to preserve the jazz art, or what was left of it, in much the same way that a commission had been set up to restore and perpetuate the old world charm of the French Quarter.

For 11 years, the club has presented such an annual concert, and in most years, it barely made expenses. As Dr. Harry Souchon, one of the club's vice presidents and long a champion of jazz, says "There were times when you couldn't even pay New Orleanians to listen to jazz."

One day, somewhere about this time, a young clarinetist named Pete Fountain appeared on the scene. The people who followed jazz, and there were precious few of these, recognized that Pete had something, and so it was that he took the place of another great clarinetist, Irving Fazola, on the night Fazola died.

But the place was typical of jazz haunts in New Orleans - a strip joint - and Fountain plied his clarinet-playing trade without making so much as a ripple or stir on the other side of Canal Street and without ever daring to think of it as an art instead of a trade.

After a few years of this and several other jobs - just about anywhere he could work to keep family alive, Pete joined Lawrence Welk on Welk's national television shows.

Uptown Orleanians, who had rejected him in his home town, began seeing him on the screens in their living rooms on fashionable St. Charles Avenue. After a year of gaining more than a little national fame, Pete returned to New Orleans to play his own kind of music. He was not a one-number-a-week type player.

Fountain decided to open his own place, and with the help of Dan Levy, who operates several of New Orleans' jazz places, started the Bateau Lounge directly across the corner from the lot left vacant when the opera house had burned.

It was a big risk because there were plenty of places to take care of the tourists seeking after jazz, and New Orleans society still hadn't lowered the barriers. Then, surprisingly, the society began to crumble. A few people who had seen and liked Fountain on television began wandering down to the Quarter to hear him in person. The blue bloods were capitulating.

In 1959, New Orleans yawned, stretched and looked around. The fathers of the city realized it was not taking advantage of the tourist trade and began seeking ways to attract more tourists to the city. Jazz was hit upon as a possibility. Wasn't Newport the rage and hadn't Monterey made a splash with its tourist-attracting jazz festival?

The eleventh annual jazz concert by the New Orleans Jazz Club became something of a test. If it succeeded, New Orleans might very well decide to go all out and try to capitalize on jazz in the form of a festival. But would it work?

On October 26, 1959, Municipal Auditorium was ablaze with lights. You might have called it a fitting nightcap to "Pete Fountain Day." International Week is a yearly event, but in 1959, jazz was incorporated into its activities, and more import-ant, with Pete Fountain one of the biggest attractions.

The limousines began arriving and the St. Charles Avenue dowagers, replendent in jewels and furs, alighted at the auditorium. The crowd was huge, and when it was all over, long after midnight, everyone in New Orleans realized that a young clarinetist by the name of Pete Fountain had accomplished what no one had been able to do in more than 160 years. He had brought jazz home to respectability in New Orleans.

Notes by SIM MEYERS,
Amusements Editor and Music Critic,
The Times-Picayune

Thursday, April 26, 2007

At the Bateau Lounge - Coral Records

At the Bateau Lounge

1960 Coral Records CRL 757314 Stereo / CRL 57314 Mono

Side One
1. Deep River
2. My Melancholy Baby
3. I've Found A New Baby
4. Mack The Knife
5. Creole Gumbo
6. You Brought A New Kind Of Love To Me

Side Two
1. Londonderry Air
2. Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen
3. After You've Gone
4. Gin Mill Blues
5. Little Rock Getaway
6. Blue Lou

Liner Notes:


Recorded In New Orleans At Dan's Bateau Lounge, Bourbon And Toulouse Streets

You know the old wheeze to the effect that ". . . you can take the boy out of the country; but you can't take the country out of the boy". Equally true, I think, is the fact that you can take a New Orleans musician away from New Orleans...but you won't be able to keep him away for very long. There are some exceptions, of course. such as Louis Armstrong; but by and large the lure of this fascinating city has its effect on its native sons, and back they come to the sights, smells, sounds that combine in a distinctive aura that means home...New Orleans! And Pete Fountain is one of the latest of a long string of New Orleans musicians who found that fame and fortune elsewhere were not attractive enough to keep them away from the jazz scene in which they were steeped. Two years on the West Coast, as featured jazz clarinetist with the Lawrence Welk Orchestra, were enough for Pete; and now he's back - and Dan Levy's Bateau Lounge on Bourbon Street is resounding with more fine music - and catering to larger crowds of enthusiastic customers than it has in many a moon.

Pete started to study clarinet when he was twelve years old. He was twenty-nine last July 3rd - having been born in 1930). Probably because he was impatient to play he didn't spend much time learning to read music; he preferred to listen to other clarinetists - and to practice. It's evident, then, that the man has a great ear as well as a wonderful tone and talent for improvisation. Although he improved his reading ability through study while with Welk, it hasn't lessened his spontaneity or flair for jazz. Rather it has undoubtedly increased his ability to arrange some things, to point up the imnromptu solos that are to follow.

When Fountain returned to New Orleans from California in the spring of 1959 to set up shop at The Bateau Lounge, fronting his own combo, he brought with him a pianist whom he had met at a houseparty in Los Angeles. A jam session at the houseparty had developed; and it was sufficient introduction to pianist Merle Koch (pronounced Cook) for Pete to realize that this was a musically kindred spirit: and forthwith asked Merle to come with him to New Orleans. Merle was born in Lexington, Nebraska in 1914, and was trying his hand at the keyboard even at the age of four. When Merle was eight, his father decided it was high time he took some lessons; but the idea was short-lived, as Merle was too used to playing by ear. It was only much later that he learned to read. He played piano all through school: and had his first professional job immediately upon finishing high school. When he was twenty-two he headed for Los Angeles: and there he stayed until he accepted Pete's bid to become his pianist in his new group in New Orleans.

Merle is well aware of all eighty-eight keys on the piano; and he uses both hands to excellent advantage. One reason may be because of his familiarity with many of the old Jelly Roll Morton compositions. His usual style, however, reminds this writer quite a hit of the Bob Zurke and Joe Sullivan school of thought but with plenty of Koch touch and ideas, too.

Two West Coast musicians were brought to New Orleans for this recording date. Bassist Don Bagley and drummer Jack Sperling. Don was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, July 18, 1927. He studied bass with Arthur Pabst. composition with Dr. Wesley La Violette, and is a graduate of Los Angeles City College. Not only has he had considerable experience with small bands; but he is an alumnus of the Stan Kenton Orchestra (1950-54) and the Les Brown Band.

Jack Sperling was with the big Glenn Miller Orchestra that Tex Beneke took on the road back in the '40s after World War II. He was with the Les Brown Band for several years, and still is Les's drummer for the Bob Hope shows - although most of his work is as a member of the musicians staff at NBC in Hollywood.

About the Music .. .

Side One
(1) Maestro Fountain is at the helm for the traditional crossing of that "Deep River"; and since there are no oars for this modern day musical journey, Pete revs up the engine with five-note clusters in the 8-bar intro: and it's full-speed ahead. A minor motif hints of a storm in the third chorus: First Mate Koch wails "Land-ho!" for sixteen bars (musical, not sand ...) A repeat of the original intro leads into the last two choruses of smooth sailing, finally coasting into Canaan's dock for the last eight bars...

(2) A soothing first chorus lifts Baby out of her melancholia. at least temporarily; and Jack Sperling's 4-bar break leads into a swinging second chorus. After kicking up their heels for 24 bars, Sperling puts his foot (and the beat) down on all this frivolity; and the rest of the chorus is taken at the original tempo and lower register for Pete's clarinet. The group eases out on a 4-bar coda (a repeat of the intro, actually) leaving Baby decidedly less melancholy than when they started this serenade...

(3) The logically joyous connotations of "I Found A New Baby" are apparent in this rendition of the old Spencer Williams "tour de force." The ensemble gathers steam during the first two choruses: then it's solos all around - a chorus each by Koch and Bagley - followed by two choruses by drummer Sperling, who has both bass drums going in ecstatic fashion, in his second chorus. Merle Koch's descending harmonics (rather reminiscent in melody to the old "Egyptian Ella") were not lost on bassist Bagley, who echoes them in his solo. Pete leads the way for the final two choruses with a skill and exuberance that will remind many of the palmy days of the swing era.

(4) "Mack The Knife" ("Moritat" or "The Theme from The Three-Penny Opera" by Kurt Weill) sneaks in with cat-like tread, mysterioso fashion: but the happy sounds that follow lead one to believe that "Mack" is not nearly as ominous a person as he is reputed to be. Rather, he gives the impression of being a sort of Til Eulenspiegel - type fellow...

(5) As tasty as the New Orleans dish for which it was named. "Creole Gumbo" has just the right amount of musical tabasco to set all feet a-tapping. It's an original devised by Pete, pianist Koch, and Bud Dant - based on the chord progression of "When The Saints Come Marching In". The close-harmony figure between clarinet and piano, comprised of five-note clusters, is repeated during Jack Sperling's 16-bar drum solo to the extent that it sounds like he's playing melody!

(6) No nightingale ever sang any sweeter than Pete's clarinet on this one. Merle's tasty chord work is heard to advantage in the second chorus, with "Bags" playing real pretty on the release. Chances are "You Brought A New Kind of Love To Me" will inspire you to dance, rather than dream,"...the whole night through...

Side Two
(1) This slightly up-tempo Fountain-Dant adaptation of the traditional "Danny Boy" of Londonderry fame is appropriately happy in mode rather than doleful - as it is dedicated to the genial, portly proprietor of The Bateau Lounge, Dan Levy. Jack sets the tempo in the eight-bar intro; and Pete gives it the nostalgic touch for 3/4ths of the first chorus until a burst from Jack's drums sends them off and flying. Notice the simple but effective "stops" by unison bass and piano behind Pete's solo work.

(2) The piano opening and closing on the old traditional spiritual "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen" is in the expected pensive mood. However, music has the power to lift folks out of their "miseries"; and by the second chorus, although the tempo never changes, there is a lift to the mood, and it becomes a wail of new hope and vigor. Again, simplicity is the keynote.

(3) Despite the rather "torchy" lyrics of "After You've Gone", instrumentally it has been a happy swinger for combos and big bands alike - and this rendition is no exception. Don Bagley not only solos well for a chorus, but lays a steady beat throughout. Sperling gets loose at the drums for two; and then Pete's clarinet comes in with a wail of approval to lead 'em out.

(4) The blues have long been a favorite mode of expression - undoubtedly because they mean so many different things to different people; and different things to the same people at different times. When played or sung simply and honestly, the blues are an outpouring of the soul - a sort of musical psychiatrist's couch, a communication of ideas (happy or sad); and when there is a rapport among the musicians such as exists here, the response is a sympathetic one. Notice in the intro when Merle at the piano states the mood in the first bar how Pete answers him in the second as if to say "Yeah, Dad: WE know..." and again in the third and fourth bars. "Gin Mill" follows the traditional 12-bar pattern - following the 8-bar introduction, with solos by Pete, Merle and Don - as Jack lays down a stable though unobtrusive beat and brings them in nicely for the ensemble final chorus. The introductory motif is repeated in the 8-bar coda. "Gin Mill" is not as widely known as some of the blues songs; but I expect you'll find this "spinning 'round in (your) brain" frequently after hearing it...

(5) Merle Koch's piano solo on "Little Rock Getaway" is in the Bob Zurke-Joe Sullivan tradition - a most worth-while tradition which Koch's own taste and touch enable him to carry on in authentic fashion, yet with fresh ideas. Pete joins in for some precise work on the last go-round; and the rhythm hacking is light and tasty throughout.

(6) The old Edgar Sampson favorite, "Blue Lou". is taken at a funky tempo, and rounds out this session. Piano and clarinet add Pete's "theme", a five-note sequence usually heard else-where in more strident fashion; but played here a la tongue-in-cheek with t.l.c.* So endeth a typical set at The Bateau Lounge in New Orleans before a properly appreciative audience - an audience that remained to hear even more after the microphones and recording equipment had been stashed away.

Dick Martin
Radio Station WWL, New Orleans

* (Tender Loving Care)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Salutes The Great Clarinetists - Coral Records

Salutes The Great Clarinetists

1960 - Coral Records CRL 757333 Stereo / CRL 57333 Mono

Side 1
1. Woodchopper’s Ball
2. Petite Fleur
3. Sometimes I’m Happy
4. Frensi
5. When My Baby Smiles At Me
6. March Of The Bob Cats

Side 2
1. Begin The Beguine
2. Me And My Shadow
3. Green Eyes
4. Let’s Dance
5. My Inspiration
6. Amapola

Liner Notes:

With Orchestra Directed By Charles Bud Dant

Pete Fountain has reached that enviable stage at which the compilers of catalogues for use in record shops are uncertain whether to list him under "jazz" or in the "popular" category. In fact, Pete's success helps to underline the inherently false implication of this listing system that jazz cannot be popular music in the broadest sense. His two years of national TV exposure with Lawrence Welk, his extraordinary success in albums under his own name and most recently the warm reaction accorded his group at such music meccas as New York's Roundtable all tend to prove that given the right blend of musician-ship, showmanship and marksmanship, jazz can be aimed at an almost unlimited audience.

The present collection is Pete's second big band album. Bud Dant, who helped to produce and write the previous venture, the Blues set (CRL 57284), was similarly associated with the new one and used basically the same personnel.

There are three main groups. On all of them the firm foundation is a superbly integrated rhythm section composed of Stan Wrightsman on piano, Morty Corb on bass, and a familiar figure common to every one of Pete's previous Coral albums (even those recorded in New Orleans), the indomitable and propulsive Jack Sperling, whose drums provide a vital and exciting spark throughout. To these men are added, on Petite Fleur, When My Baby Smiles at Me, Begin The Beguine and Amapola, a brass section (Conrad Gozzo, lead trumpet; Art Depew, Johnny Best, and George Thow or Jackie Coons, trumpets; Moe Schneider, Bill Schaefer and Joe Howard or Marshall Cram, trombones; Pete Lofthouse, bass trombone). The rhythm section provides the foundation, on Sometimes I'm Happy, Me and My Shadow and Let's Dance, for a five piece saxophone section with Willie Schwartz, alto and tenor; Eddie Miller, Plas Johnson, Babe Russin, tenors; Chuck Gentry, baritone. On Woodchoppers' Ball, Frenesi, March of the Bob Cats, Green Eyes and My Inspiration the same reeds, brass and rhythm are combined for some of the most potent big band sounds ever produced by these topflight West Coast musicians.

Of the album's theme, Pete says: "This is my tribute to some of the great people who have been associated with the clarinet. It's not in any way an attempt to duplicate their individual styles." It will be noted that the seven clarinetists saluted are all men who came to prominence in the 1920s and '30s. The reason, will be clear to anyone who has followed the jazz scene: Pete Fountain is the first man on his instrument to achieve complete national success and economic security since the dying days of the swing era, when for no apparent reason the thin black horn lost its vogue.

"I have to keep in mind," observes Pete with typical frankness, "that I was lucky to have an open field on my instrument. After all, when Benny Goodman came along, most of the time he had Shaw and Herman and Dorsey and others on his back; but the fellows who came up in between that period and the present - Buddy de Franco, Tony Scott and the others - are in a different field and represent a different approach to the instrument."

I would debate this last item; despite his New Orleans associations and Dixieland background, Pete essentially is a modern musician, one who has listened to jazz with ears that are as harmonically sensitive and fingers as consistently agile as those of De Franco and the other contemporary stylists. The point has never been more clearly made than in these sides on which, as he emphasizes, the tributes are to earlier figures but the style is deliberately his own.

"The orchestra," says Bud Dant, "was supposed to be built around Pete to showcase him, rather than to be integrated with him. And in the arrangements we would use a phrase or passage here and there that might be reminiscent of the original recording, but here again there was no exact carbon copying."

Woodchoppers' Ball (I have always felt the apostrophe should come after rather than before the s,because the woodchopping clearly was a concerted effort) was the first hit recording of the Woody Herman band, cut in April 1939, some 2½ years after Woody's debut as a recording bandleader. Based on a simple repeated riff in the 12-bar blues pattern, it was rearranged for this date by Don Bagley. In addition to Pete's buoyant pied-piping there is strong support from drummer Sperling and pianist Wrightsman.

Petite Fleur has an ironic history. Though the late Sidney Bechet had composed and recorded it several years earlier, it went almost unnoticed until Monty Sunshine, a British musician, took it up in 1956. His recording with Chris Barber's band became a sensation, first in West Germany, then in Britain and finally in 1959 in the U. S. It was through this freak chain of events that Bechet, just before his death, found himself the composer of a song on the Hit Parade. The Fountain treatment is ingeniously scored by Bud Dant for the brass section, with some attractive and solidly swinging effects accomplished in mutes.

Sometimes I'm Happy was one of the first Benny Goodman recordings to penetrate to a mass public in the swing years. The famous Fletcher Henderson arrangement was cut by Benny for a 78 rpm single in July 1935. "Benny was one of my early idols," says Pete. "I used to hear him play this on the old Camel Caravan show." The Don Bagley arrangement uses saxes and rhythm, with a deep voicing featuring four tenors (Plas Johnson has the lead) and baritone.

Frenesi was a tune Artie Shaw brought back from Mexico after the well-remembered walkout with which he abruptly ended the career of his second band, late in 1939. Artie's version, cut in March 1940, featured a large orchestra with 13 strings. Art Depew scored it for Pete with the full complement of brass, saxes and rhythm; the performance swings all the way, touching only lightly and briefly on the Latin rhythm concept.

When My Baby Smiles At Me has nostalgic associations for Pete. "Ted Lewis was my daddy's idol. Dad didn't play clarinet, just a litle drums and violin, but he was crazy about Ted Lewis, and when I was about 11 or 12 he took me to hear him at a local theatre. I guess he was the first clarinetist I ever heard in person." How far the clarinet has progressed since then can be deduced from Pete's elegant, limpid-toned, rhythmically subtle delineation of the hoary melody in this Bud Dant arrangement.

March of the Bob Cats, composed by Irving Fazola, was recorded by him in March 1939 with Bob Crosby's Bob Cats, an octet contingent from the big Crosby band. Pete, who worshipped Fazola, heard him often in New Orleans, from the time Faz left the traveling big band scene until he died in 1949. Much of the excitement and vigorous sincerity of the old Crosby band lives anew in this Morty Corb arrangement, which has solo spots by Eddie Miller and Moe Schneider as well as some of Pete's best work of the entire album.

Begin the Beguine was of course the biggest Artie Shaw hit of all. The brass section backs Pete effectively in a Don Bagley chart. Here the mood and pattern of the original treatment (Shaw recorded it in July 1938, by the way) are retained more exactly than on most of the tracks in this album.

Me and My Shadow, a second tribute to Ted Lewis, has Pete with a sax section backdrop in an Art Depew arrangement. The saxophone voicing is similar to that heard on Sometimes I'm Happy.

Green Eyes was one of a series of hits established in the early 1940s by the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra, which at that time served largely as a setting for the vocals of Helen O'Connell and Bob Eberly. The tune has since been used occasionally as a basis for jazz improvisation, and in this instrumental version it serves as an excellent vehicle for Pete's clarinet, with the full band featured in a Morty Corb orchestration.

Let's Dance, a swing version of Karl Maria von Weber's Invitation to the Dance, has been popular for more than two decades as Benny Goodman's theme. In this Morty Corb score Pete introduces the melody to a background of five saxes led by Willie Schwartz's alto. Again Jack Sperling's drums are a major incentive to the soaring Fountain horn.

My Inspiration is another of the compositions recorded by Irving Fazola during his two-year tenure in the Bob Crosby orchestra. Crosby cut it with the full band in October 1938 and another clarinetist who was a member of the Crosby crew at that time, Matty Matlock, wrote the new arrangement used here as a setting for Pete Fountain. The minor-key melody sounds as beautiful as ever after 22 years. Melodically and harmonically it's a superb piece of material for Pete. After a Sperling break the tempo doubles to bring the performance to a compelling climax.

Amapola, like Green Eyes, was a vocal vehicle in the Jimmy Dorsey band, and coincidentally it has a melody strikingly similar in pattern. Art Depew wrote the Fountain arrangement, featuring the brass section. Jack Sperling's punctuations drive the final chorus along engagingly and Pete uses a Goodmanesque flourish to bring the album to a swinging close.

In concept and execution I believe this is the most successful Pete Fountain album to date, one that will serve to remind many fans of a point made by Bud Dant when we were discussing Pete's accomplishments. "Pete hasn't only helped to bring the clarinet back in front where it should be," said Bud, "he's also managed, with his musicianship and his colorful personality, to make many new friends for jazz in general."

(Author of The New Encyclopedia of Jazz)

Mr. New Orleans Jazz Meets Mr. Honky Tonk - Coral Records

Mr. New Orleans Jazz Meets Mr. Honky Tonk

1961 Coral Records CRL 757334 Stereo / CRL 57334 Mono

Side One
1. That's A Plenty
2. After You've Gone
3. Alexander's Ragtime Band
4. Ain't Misbehavin' (I'm Savin' My Love For You)
5. Jazz Me Blues
6. Oh, Lady Be Good

Side Two
1. Limehouse Blues
2. Honeysuckle Rose
3. Darktown Strutters' Ball
4. Georgia On My Mind
5. Sweet Sue, Just You
6. American Patrol

Liner Notes:

The idea of a "battle of the bands" is one that probably goes almost as far back as the origin of the popular orchestra. Certainly in the late nineteenth century there were rival street bands in many of the southern states whose relative merits were judged by their enthusiastic sup-porters in open-air musical galas. Back in the 1930s the so-called swing era brought a wave of special events at which leading groups would be paired off at the Savoy or some other famous ballroom.

Today, with the technological advantages of tape recording, hi-fi and stereo, the old gimmick has taken on a new twist. In the present meeting between Mr. New Orleans Jazz (better known as Pete Fountain) and Mr. Honky Tonk (alias Dudley "Big Tiny" Little) the occasion is a particularly important one for anyone equipped with a first-class hi-fi rig (especially if he happens to have stereo); and the musical effect is one of amalgamation rather than opposition.

The backgrounds of the protagonists in this musical merger have a great deal in common. Both Pete Fountain and Tiny Little were born in the summer of 1930, a few weeks apart. Both were the sons of well known musicians - Tiny's father was a famous orchestra leader for many years (he is now more or less retired but still books polka band gigs around Minnesota) - while Pete's father played drums and violin with various jazz groups around Biloxi, Miss. Most important, of course, is the bond between Pete and Tiny as alumni of the Lawrence Welk organization, in which they worked together for a couple of years and were jointly featured on the Welk television series.

Pete became a leader in the early 1950s, disbanding to join Welk in 1957 and resuming his independent career in the spring of 1959. Tiny, who had played piano from the age of five, organized his first trio while in his teens. Anative of Worthington, Minn., he played dance dates throughout the middle West and later worked as a sideman with the orchestras of Cliff Kyes, Jimmie Thomas and, not surprisingly, Tiny Little Sr. After joining the Air Force in 1950 he was based in Japan and formed a jazz combo of local citizens.

A seldom-publicized aspect of Tiny's career is the jazz venture he undertook not long after his discharge from the Air Force in 1954. For a while he worked at the Strollers Club in Long Beach, Cal., as one-third of a swinging trio whose other members were the distinguished jazz bassist Leroy Vinnegar and guitarist Irving Ashby (formerly of the King Cole Trio). After working solo for a while in cocktail lounges, Tiny was discovered by Welk, joining him in the summer of 1955 and remaining just four years.

Tiny describes himself as a "left-handed piano player," by which he means that he keeps the bass notes moving, much in the manner of his earliest keyboard idol, the late and immortal Thomas "Fats" Waller. (For similar reasons his current favorites include Erroll Garner at the top of the list.)

Pete Fountain names as his favorite clarinetists the late Irving Fazola (a New Orleans product like Pete himself ) and another Crescent City veteran, Eddie Miller of the old Bob Crosby band. Nevertheless, listeners who have followed Pete's work in recent years discern a strong Benny Goodman influence.

Of the Little-Fountain cooperation on these sides, Tiny says: "This was something we'd had at the back of our minds for a long time; we were happy when Coral arranged for us to join forces. Pete is just a natural player and it's a stimulating experience to work with him."

Listeners who hear the stereo version will find Tiny on the right channel with his men - including the one-time Benny Goodman guitarist, Allan Reuss, playing banjo; Buddy Hayes on tuba, Morty Corb on string bass and Jack Sperling on drums, plus Jack Imel offering such miscellaneous percussion sounds as washboard, spoons, woodblocks and anything else handy. On the left hand channel is Pete with his clarinet and his own rhythm section, including Merle Koch on piano, Lowell Miller on bass and Paul Edwards on drums. Also on the date was Lou Singer (alternating with Elmer Schmidt) on xylophone and vibraphone.

The session opens with a little walking music a la Jackie Gleason as the boys tear into That's A Plenty, a Dixieland standard of the mid-1920s. Then time marches back for After You've Gone, written during World War I and handled here just as it has almost always been done by jazzmen, with the first chorus slow and the second in double-time. Next, Tiny takes the lead chorus, followed bysome of Pete's must fluent ad-libbing, on the rousing treatment of Irving Berlin's first hit, Alexander's Ragtime Band, now rounding out its first half century. Ain't Misbehavin' moves the clock ahead a little to 1929, when this song became one of Fats Waller's first major hits. Next comes Jazz Me Blues, a song recorded by scores of Dixie-land combos since Bix Beiderbecke immortalized it more than three decades ago. A fast tempo treatment of Gershwin's Lady Be Good offers a touch of Allen Reuss' banjo chords along with solos by Tiny and Pete.

The second side opens uproariously with a reckless investigation of Limehouse Blues, another hit of the early 1920s, complete with Oriental effects, whistles, rattles and Tiny's "doctored" piano all contributing to an atmosphere that's as corny as a carousel and just as much fun. Stereo listeners will get a special kick out of the "ping-pong" effect created by the two drummers in the introduction to Fats Waller's Honeysuckle Rose, which features Merle Koch, Pete's pianist, as well as Tiny. The familiar "riff" played during the last chorus is taken from the famous Fletcher Henderson arrangement of this tune, popularized around 1939 by the Benny Goodman band.

After Darktown Strutters Ball, which has some of the most typically exuberant Little piano work of the entire album, the mood changes for a relaxed interpretation of Hoagy Carmichael's 30-year-old classic Georgia On My Mind. Notice how effectively the piano answers each clarinet statement of the melody in the opening chorus. The tuba rounds out the overall sound in an effective arrangement. (Whatever planned music can be heard on this session is credited to Larry Fotine, the arranger who has collaborated with Tiny on a number of ragtime pieces.) The second chorus of Sweet Sue is a real panic, especially for stereo listeners - sheer uninhibited bedlam, complete with rollicking keyboard, xylophone, tuba and everything else but (or possibly even including) the kitchen sink. This tune dates back to 1928, which makes it somewhat younger than the concluding item, American Patrol. Here we have another example of how a time-honored melody with no direct jazz associations can be transformed with-out any trouble at all into a vehicle for this kind of free-for-all improvisation.

Very recently Pete Fountain won the Down Beat International Jazz Critics' poll as new star of the year on clarinet for 1960. Although the atmosphere on these sides is hardly intended to appeal to purists or snobs (for whom rowdy, no-holds-barred music merely produces a "we-are-not-amused" lifted eyebrow), it's a cinch that this meeting in modern sound between the critics' new favorite and the public's favorite honky-tonk expert will win many new fans for both.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Pete Fountain Presents Jack Sperling And His Fascinatin' Rhythm - Coral Records

Pete Fountain Presents
Jack Sperling And His Fascinatin' Rhythm

1961 Coral Records CRL 757341 Stereo / CRL 57341 Mono

Side One
1. Fascinating Rhythm
2. Golden Wedding
3. Big Crash From China
4. Cute
5. Sing, Sing, Sing (With A Swing)
6. Hawaiian War Chant (Ta Hu Wa Hu Wai)

Side Two
1. Wire Brush Stomp
2. Scott Free
3. Las Chiapanecas
4. Quiet Please
5. Creole Gumbo
6. Big Noise From Winnetka

Liner Notes:

Pete Fountain Presents Jack Sperling And His Fascinatin' Rhythm

Drum Solos With Orchestra Directed By Charles Bud Dant

On each of the previous Pete Fountain albums for Coral the propelling factor at the drums has been Jack Sperling. It is not inappropriate, then, that such a basic and yet highly important integer be showcased with a special spotlight. And to add color, special arrangements were written, and a hand-picked group of musicians rounded up for the occasion. Don Bagley, who has appeared with Pete on at least one of his albums for Coral, and who is a Kenton big band alumnus, did the arrangements. Pete told me, gleefully, that after "Bags" had completed a couple of arrangements for the date he brought them in to Bud Dant and said, "Give me some more to do, man; my chops are fine!" Which, (in musicians' parlance) usually refers to physical condition in playing, and more specifically embouchure; but in this case it was the arranging ideas that were flowing easily; and, as you will hear, the results were as colorful and direct as Bagley's speech.

Rounding out the rhythm section and comprising the rest of the basic quartet with Pete and Jack are pianist Stan Wrightsman and bassist Morty Corb - both veterans of the jazz scene and no strangers to recording dates with Pete and Jack.

Among the other musicians heard in the big band passages are Bill Usselton on ten, saxophone; and just about the "strongest" lead trumpet man in the business, the ever-in-demand Conrad Gozzo.

It's something of a tribute to Jack Sperling that I can't tell you minute biographical details about him. After I'd had a chance to give an advance dub of the album a listen we chatted long-distant (I here in New Orleans and he in Hollywood) and in my enthusiasm for the music I had heard and in discussing it I forgot to ask him where he was born, which shoe he ties first. how he likes his eggs (or if he even likes eggs!) and all that jazz. This we know: that he was with the Glenn Miller band that Tex Beneke took on the road right after World War II; that subsequent to that he became Les Brown's drummer and held that chair for several years on a steady basis, eventually relinquishing it to accept a position as staff drummer at NBC, but still working with Les on the Bob Hope TV shows. Needless to say he's an experienced, talented, and swinging drummer; and if you can corner him long enough between staff duties, recording dates, etc., I'm sure he'll be glad to fill you in with additional personal data...

Fascinating Rhythm serves as the Overture to the album - a preview of things to come, inasmuch as Jack holds a sort of question-and-answer session with himself through the use of his conventional drums, tom-toms, and small tuned drums.

Dancers will find the moderate tempo to their liking.

Golden Wedding (La Cinquantaine) is taken at a slower, more deliberate tempo than the first Woody Herman version - which featured drummer Frankie Carlson: and much slower than the Third Herd version of the early 'fifties' with Sonny Igoe at the drums. Jack Sperling and bassist Morty Corb take the intro by themselves. Don Bagley has written a pretty score for the sax section in the first chorus, with Pete leading into the bridge - and again the first part of the second chorus, with tenor man Billy Usselton soloing on the bridge. Sperling and Corb finally take it out by themselves through the same door marked "Rhythm" by which they had entered.

Big Crash From China was one of the specialty numbers of the old Bob Crosby band for featuring drummer Ray Bauduc. Jack makes a solo entrance; then is joined by the other members of the quartet; Pete, Morty, and pianist Stan Wrightsman, for a stop chorus. The melody has a bluesy flavor to it, and made me feel as tho' it might be an inversion of the old "Wang Wang Blues." Jack's brush work is crisp and deft, and punctuated by the bass drum - but all in all not nearly as crashing as the title might indicate.

Cute was written by the prolific Neal Hefti to feature drummer Sonny Payne and flutist Frank Wess with the Basie band, and quickly has become a favorite with combo drummers as a head arrangement. Don Bagley has scored this for the full orchestra once more; and Jack takes the breaks during the first chorus with sticks on the hi-hat cymbal. Pete solos in the second chorus, with Jack and the orchestra splitting the third. From then on it's anybody's ball, with the chores pretty evenly divided.

Sing, Sing, Sing, is the number that broke it up at the Benny Goodman 1938 Carnegie Hall concert. Gene Krupa was the Goodman drummer, and set a pretty driving pace on the tom-toms compared with the easy lope of this new version. Jack actually plays melody, solo-wise, on the first chorus, excepting the bridge - which is taken by bassist Corb. After the full band joins in for the second chorus there is some interesting conversational by-play between clarinet and drums. Notice the unison melody by Corb and Sperling just before the ending.

Hawaiian War Chant salutes drummer Buddy Rich and his one-time boss Tommy Dorsey, Jack splits his attention between tom-tom savagery and driving rhythm on the conventional percussion. It's Quartetville once more with piano, bass and clarinet keeping pace with a driving tempo that bodes ill for the durability and longevity of any grass skirts that may be worn by the dancers.

Wire Brash Stomp was a big hit for Gene Krupa shortly after he formed his own band back in '38; and now, through modern recording techniques, Jack gives it his multiple, tho' ,divided (sic!) attention. Stereo fans will see what I mean. There's just a hint of the heavy after-beat that has been so prevalent in recent dance arrangements catering to the teen-age set; and Jack's crisp and dexterous brush work is neatly laced with accents on bongos. Pete comes racing back from the water cooler and slides to a stop just in time for the finale.

Scott Free is an original by "Bags" and Jack, with some more tasty brush work from Jack against a stop-chorus from the band that will probably remind you of the delightful soft-shoe routines of the halcyon days of vaudeville. Pete takes a relaxed second chorus, spelled by a contrasting trombone on the bridge. Then it's full band once more, and everyone is, I mean, Scott Free!

Las Chiapanecas (sounds like a Los Angeles street name) is another echo of the Woody Herman-Frankie Carlson alliance, and was performed then by the Four Chips from Woody's band. (There sure were some wonderful things on those old Blue Label Deccas!) The traditional 6/8 of the Mexican dance is felt on and off in this rendition; but the urge to wail in 4/4 is predominant. Stan Wrightsman plays a fine chorus; and Jack's rhythms are masterful throughout.

Quiet Please was a Tommy Dorsey flagwaver used as a showcase for pyrotechnist Buddy Rich. After the opening fanfare and statements from the orchestra, the quartet takes over. Jack's re-strained yet driving rhythm isn't lost on Pete - who makes melodic reference to fit in the release of that chorus. Notice, too, the timbre of Morty's bass-work on this one. Cognizant of Jack's distaste for extended drums solos (which tend to bore the listener and cease to prove anything after the first few minutes other than the drummer's endurance quotient) Don Bagley has scored with commendable brevity and the message is well delivered in less than two minutes. The cymbal-work is strategic, and Jack wraps it up with a snap-roll on both bass drums. Look out Astaire!

Creole Gumbo is another original, and as satisfying and smile-evoking as the New Orleans dish far which it was named. Clarinet and drums compare cooking ideas with laudable precision in reaching agreement as to the best way to make it - and like, they DO - ya' know?

Big Noise From Winnetka featured drummer Ray Bauduc and bassist Bob Haggart — with extra melody provided by some between-the-teeth whistling from "The Hag". It was named for a feminine admirer of one of the boys in the Crosby band; and she would come into the Blackhawk in Chicago where the band was playing and "spook" him ad infinitum. Since she hailed from the suburb north of Chicago, Winnetka, and was none too reticent in voicing her admiration, this bit of by-play was so-named as an "inside rib". A feature of the original was Bauduc's drumming on the strings of Haggart's bass. In this version Jack also indulges in similar instrumental trespass. He states the melody on his tuned drums first, however, followed by Pete's clarinet with the melody line of the whistling in the older version. Morty Corb has his innings on bass; and the final score is 3-0 in favor of the trio.

If you haven't already been listening to the album, get with it. I'm sure you'll find, as I have, that the wiry meticulousness of Jack Sperling, the man, that is apparent to the eye is reflected in Jack Sperling, the drummer, as apparent to ear. In fact, if you'll forgive me, I'll say that this Sperling is marked "Sterling" - and let it go at that.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

On Tour - Coral Records

On Tour

1961 Coral Records CRL 757357 Stereo / CRL 57357 Mono

Side 1
1. Hindustan
2. New Orleans
3. Mississippi Mud
4. San Antonio Rose
5. Manhattan
6. Isle Of Capri

Side 2
1. Swanee River Rag
2. Indiana
3. Sentimental Journey
4. I Lost My Sugar In Salt Lake City
5. Moonlight In Vermont
6. Chicago

Liner Notes:

Clarinet Solos With Rhythm Accompaniment

Many things have been said about Pete Fountain's music. It has been called jazz-flavored Dixieland and New Orleans styled jazz; smooth but wild, faithful to the melody line yet shaped by ad lib solo flights; rompin', stompin' and foot-tappin' while gently moody, and yet, always happy.

Strangely enough, all of these apparent contradictions are absolutely true. Here, on the 12 standards that comprise PETE FOUNTAIN "ON TOUR," is the evidence. The arrangements prove all of those descriptives and then some, for with each hearing the listener finds another nuance, - another bit of phrasing, another harmonic relationship between the instruments for him to savor.

To call them arrangements is, in truth, stretching the facts a bit. Each of these tunes was performed from what musicians call "head arrangements" - that is, there is no exact written arrangement for the various instruments. Instead, each sideman contributes his own individual interpretation within a general framework of the melody and a rough idea of what the end result should sound like.

With the men chosen to complement the bewhiskered Mr. Fountain on this album, the decision to use head arrangements was a wise one. For Drummer Jack Sperling, Bassist Morty Corb and Pianist Stan Wrightsman are rated expert exponents of their craft even by those severest of all critics, their fellow musicians.

As Charles (Bud) Dant, artist's repertoire man who supervises all of Pete's recording sessions, explained: "We spent four sessions cutting this album. We took our time because we wanted to build something. Since these are head arrangements, we wanted to build some unusual interpretations into these standards. We took a rough outline of the tune, then put the Pete Fountain feel into it. With this touch we get not only jazz but a fine melodic line that swings without deviating too much from the original".

What is the "Pete Fountain touch"? It's hard to explain. Pete himself can't explain it. "I don't think too much about my playing," he says. "I just play by instinct. I blow what I feel and it just comes out right. I don't even read much music. Like Wingy Manone always says, I read just enough not to hurt my jazz".

The album was inspired by a tour Pete made in the Spring of 1960 which met with such tremendous acclaim from both critics and customers that he is planning more tours to play colleges and communities across the country. At any of these concerts the group may break into any of these numbers. Some of them find Pete soaring, in others he plays harmony to the other instruments, in still others he steps back to let them wing it, singly and together. But all have that magic Pete Fountain touch.

The set opens with a moving "Hindustan" on which Pete staccato-ly points up a Corb bass bit and Sperling creates an Oriental feel by laying down a jazz-latin beat on cymbal. Pete then puts a soft "down home" feeling to a bluesy "New Orleans." An uptempo "Mississippi Mud" follows, with Morty's bass prominent and Jack taking a few short solos on tom toms. In tribute to his neighboring state of Texas, Louisiana-born Pete puts a horse-trotting gait to "San Antonio Rose" and caresses it with his sweetest tones. An abrupt switch in tempo brings a light, easy "Manhattan", followed by Pete's wailing version of the ever-swinging "Isle of Capri".

Side Two opens with Pete's chorus of "Swanee River" before the gang blows it wild like the river at floodtide. Pete steps up the beat closer to a true New Orleans feel on "Back Home Again In Indiana", once again with the bass and drums taking off individually after Pete's opening melodic statement.

"Sentimental Journey" is sentimental indeed, with Pete and Morty alternating on melodic interpretations. The set really rocks when Stan comes into his own with a boogie woogie keyboarding of "I Lost My Sugar In Salt Lake City" while Pete blows straight melody. Another facet of the versatile Fountain talent shows through on a soulful "Moonlight in Vermont" and the group closes in the same fashion as it opened, with a light swinging, nostalgic treatment of "Chicago".

Pete Fountain's French Quarter - Coral Records

Pete Fountain's French Quarter

1961 Coral - CRL 757359 Stereo / CRL 57359 Mono

Side One
1. Summertime
2. Dear Old Southland
3. Oh, Didn't He Ramble
4. Bye Bye Blackbird
5. Lazy Bones
6. Someday, Sweetheart

Side Two
1. Is It True What They Say About Dixie
2. Shrimp Boats
3. That Da Da Strain
4. Theme From The French Quarter
5. Dixie
6. Birth Of The Blues

Liner Notes:

Pete Fountain's French Quarter New Orleans
Clarinet Solos With Rhythm Accompaniment

Personnel: P. Fountain, clarinet; Godfrey Hirsch, vibraphone; Stan Wrightsman, piano; Morty Corb, bass; Jack Sperling, drums.

One of the newest, plushest, and most popular clubs in New Orleans is the recently opened French Quarter Inn - its elegant brick and wrought iron facade occupying a prominent corner on the fabled, fabulous Bourbon Street.
The proprietor and main attraction is jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain, who entertains his patrons (nightly as numerous as space will allow) much in the same swinging manner as he comes to you on this album.

SUMMERTIME - Opens with explosive by-play between Jack Sperling and Morty Corb. Piano interjects a Latin-jazz feel over which Pete plays the first melodic chorus. This is followed by a solo from Stan Wrightsman on piano and then into an exciting double-time ensemble chorus with Pete paraphrasing the melody in his loose, melodic-jazz style. Closes as it opens, with the eight-beat flavor. A head-arrangement that lends an authentic French Quarter, late hour flavor.

DEAR OLD SOUTHLAND - The introduction begins like a New Orleans hymn, played by piano, bass and drums. Godfrey Hirsch plays the first chorus straight on vibes with a 'deep-river' style counter-melody played by Pete. This is followed by a doubling up of the tempo, and three wailing choruses, one by Pete, a great chorus by Stan, and finally, an ensemble with a wonderful extra ending, sparked by a bass solo by Morty.

OH, DIDN'T HE RAMBLE - The traditional New Orleans spiritual gets a warm, simple reading by Pete, aided by Godfrey on vibes, with a background reminiscent of the old Cake Walk, but slower.

BYE BYE BLACKBIRD - Opens with an interesting collection of breaks on piano, vibes and bass over a jazz-marching beat by Jack. Pete plays the first chorus and, following this, Godfrey and Jack split one, which gives Pete the impetus for his last swinging chorus. Jack and Pete close with a paraphrase of the opening breaks.

LAZY BONES - Here again, Godfrey plays the opening melody on vibes with Pete ad libbing a beautiful counter. In the second eight, this procedure is reversed and Jack picks up the tempo for a spicy bridge by Pete. At the close of this chorus the vibraphone again takes the melody, with Pete on the counter-melody.

SOMEDAY, SWEETHEART - This swinging standard is given a real Bourbon Street, Pete Fountain treatment and, although it was recorded on the West Coast and in the studio, it has the great "in person" drive that the group achieves while playing to the enthusiastic FRENCH QUARTER INN Customer's. Pete opens and closes the side by playing two choruses and, by the time the group swings into Jack Sperling's closing bass drum break, the whole place gets to rockin'.

IS IT 'TRUE WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT DIXIE - Pete and the boys prove the answer to this question is a big, swinging "yes." A two-beat version of the old popular tune that really gets off the ground with a paraphrase of "Dixie" for an introduction and ending, and choruses by Pete, Stan and Godfrey before the final ensemble.

SHRIMP BOATS - Pete takes this very popular tune, written in 3/4 time, and, starting with a slow, dark introduction, runs briefly through a statement of the melody in 3/4. Morty then does a clever trick of sneaking the `three-beat' into a four-beat and the group winds up with the tune really swinging in a sort of free ad-lib jazz with some `funky' vibe work. Just as smoothly, Morty takes it back into 3/4 for the final go-around.

THAT DA DA STRAIN - Most of the Pete Fountain fans will be delighted with this version of the somewhat remote old jazz tune that is so much a part of the deep South, and, although Pete's version is far from the traditional dixieland style, it combines his New Orleans jazz with a touch of the old and great Benny Goodman Quintet. This is evident after Morty and Jack open up with a tricky bass and cymbal introduction. All the boys are featured in solos which are separated by the interesting trio work of clarinet, vibes, and piano.

THEME FROM THE FRENCH QUARTER - Here is an original melody by Pete that is built on the traditional `blues' foundation. A haunting, clarinetesque tune played by Pete in both his low and high registers, with an interesting triplet figure by Stan in the background. This is the theme Pete has designated as the official music of his exciting, new FRENCH QUARTER INN at 800 Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

DIXIE - Jack Sperling kicks off this interesting side with a marching-jazz beat on his toy snare drum and, after a little clarinet and drum `conversation', the quintet really gets this old Civil War tune off the ground. After Pete plays his first jazz chorus, Godfrey has his say on vibes with a great solo, followed by an interesting set of `4s' between bass and drums which leads into a riff type ensemble, capped off with a wailing drum break and a short, explosive ensemble ending.

THE BIRTH OF THE BLUES - Pete takes full advantage of this wonderful melody to show his warm, sympathetic tone, plus his flair for making the melody swing. After he plays a chorus, Stan plays a fine sixteen bars on piano and then Pete takes us right back to the FRENCH QUARTER with his closing "trill from a whippoorwill - pushed through a horn, til it was born" on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.