Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pete's Place - Coral Records

Pete's Place

1964 Coral Records CRL 757453 Stereo / CRL 57453 Mono

Side 1
1. Oh Lady Be Good
2. Facination Medley A) Facination B) Basin St. Blues C) Tin Roof Blues
3. It's Just A Little While
4. That's Plenty

Side 2
1. The Sheik Of Araby
2. The Preacher
3. (What Did I Do To Be So) Black And Blue
4. March To Peruna

Liner Notes:

Recorded "Live" At Pete Fountain's French Quarter Inn, New Orleans

Pete Fountain, clarinet; Earl Vuiovich, piano; Paul Guna, guitar and banjo; Oliver Felix, bass; Nick Fatool and Paul Edwards, drums; Godfrey Hirsch, vibes.

One of the most popular clubs in New Orleans is Pete's Place. and that is how it is familiarly known to jazz enthusiasts, night-lifers and cab drivers, though its correct name is Pete Fountain's French Quarter Inn. On Bourbon Street at St. Anne Street. it consists of three rooms, all open to one another, with an appropriately regional decor of brick and wrought iron. the hand plays in the middle room, which is overhung by a second storey's attractive balcony.

It was here that this album was made, but. as if the normal atmosphere were not enough, it was made during Mardi Gras, on the Saturday night before Fat Tuesday. 1964. Sometimes, in fact. recording had to be stopped because of the noise and commotion as parades and sections of parades passed outside.

Pete Fountain, a popular idol in New Orleans, annually participates in the climactic parade of Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday with his Half-Fast Marching Club, the group consisting of musicians, friends and local buddies, all colorfully costumed at his expense. For 1964, an Aztec motif was adopted and they came on, some thirty strong, in yellow satin (decorated with orange feathers), head dresses of ostrich plumes and gilded shoes, with bronze Aztec masks on their breasts. The most resplendent of all was Pete in a skirted outfit with a kind of armored top and a three-quarter circle of plumes on his head. Blowing his clarinet. he led the Marching Club. which was supported by Paul Barbarin's band in its regular uniforms.

They all set out from a little tavern on St. Charles Street at 9 o'clock in the morning. Among the Aztecs were Bud Dant on alto horn and Nick Fatool on snare drum, both of whom had flown down with this recording primarily in mind. It was a joyous day for both, not least for Dant, a former jazz musician himself. but currently arranger and a. and r. man. They marched along St. Charles Street to the authoritative heat of Barbarian's bass drum, down Canal Street and back past the reviewing stand, which Pete mounted to greet Rex (the king of the festival) and salute the crowd. Then they marched off into Bourbon Street and reached Pete's Place at 1 o'clock. in need of refreshment, but very happy. Some of them were additionally happy in the recollection of what they had accomplished here the previous Saturday night.

An enthusiastic audience is obviously a stimulus to any artist and the high spirits and excitement of the last Saturday in Mardi Gras communicated quickly and found expression in the music, as these selections certainly illustrate.

An up-tempo version of Oh, Lady Be Good makes an impelling opener. After the choruses by Pete and vibist Godfrey Hirsch, Nick Fatool takes over for an arresting demonstration of his drumming skills. Nick's presence in the audience had inevitably led to requests for him to sit in, which he evenutaily did to the great delight of Paul Edwards. Pete's regular drummer, whose inspiration Nick is. The similarity between their styles is evident throughout the album.

Fascination Medley is unusual in its interpolation of three old New Orleans favorites: Basin Street Blues, Tin Roof Blues and Way Down Yonder in New Orleans. The contrasts and routining are effective, and the crowd. taken by surprise with each, roars in recognition and approval.

Another traditional number, the reflective It's Just a Little While to Stay Here, steadfastly proceeds over the march patterns of the rhythm section and features Pete's full, lower-register tone to much advantage.

That's A Plenty, a standard of standards in the jazz repertoire. is taken at a moderate and more appropriate tempo than usual and builds to a driving climax with Pete's stabbing high notes. Nick Fatool is back for this one and the interplay between drums, clarinet and vibes is captivating. Hirsch has thirty-two bars to himself for relaxed and tasteful variation.

After the three opening choruses in which Pete employs his instrument's different registers to striking dynamic effect. The Sheik of Araby is also built to a strong climax. Pianist Fart Vuiovich debuts as a soloist with a convincing chorus, Nick Fatool comes to the foreground for two with clarinet in sole support, and then Pete rides out commandingly with the whole group.

Horace Silver's The Preacher is a vehicle well suited to the occasion. The congregation dutifully claps hands in agreement with the Rev. Fountain's propositions in the first chorus. and applauds them vociferously at the end.
Pete treats the moving melody of Fats Waller's Black and Blue with all the respect it deserves and, as on his best-selling Licorice Stick album, makes expressive use of the lower register. Godfrey Hirsch's quietly confident vibes contribute a great deal to this unpretentious hut appealing performance.

Though March to Peruna is clearly routed through some very mountainous country, everyone is full of enthusiasm and energy. Nick Fatool is in the first percussion chair, driving all before him with an assist from Godfrey Hirsch on snare drum. Earl Vuiovich solos again and in the reprise Paul Guna has the lime-light, stepping out in lively fashion on banjo.

This, then, is a sampling of infectiously happy music to he heard in Pete's Place, where the principle of enjoyment is paramount all the year round. It is goodtime, foot-tapping music to stir the pulse and charge the emotions. It is as spontaneous as it is unassuming, and it explains the long lines often outside waiting. Not everybody can always get in, but you can with this album. You can be there, in New Orleans at Mardi Gras, the gayest time of the year - in Pete's Place!

Stanley Dance

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