Thursday, April 19, 2007

Swing Low, Sweet Clarinet - Coral Records

Swing Low, Sweet Clarinet

1962 Coral Records CRL 757394 Stereo / CRL 57394 Mono

Side One
1. Dis Ol' Train
2. Sing You Sinners
3. Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen
4. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
5. Down By The Riverside
6. Let Me Walk Closer To Thee

Side Two
1. Yes Indeed
2. Swing Low, Sweet Clarinet
3. If I Go To The Promised Land
4. I Talk To The King
5. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
6. Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho

Liner Notes:

Swing Low, Sweet Clarinet
Pete Fountain With The Jubilee Singers And Orchestra
Directed By Charles Bud Dant

Swing Low Sweet Clarinet is a completely new experience in New Orleans Jazz. Through the magic that is Pete Fountain devout disciples of the traditional idiom born in the heart of Crescent City, will discover an excitingly new component with jazz. Production wise this album is different - a new departure among the usual tune anthologies under a single cover. Yet, amazingly enough, here is tradition somehow overlooked until now in the combined use of little band jazz with Jubilee Singers.

Every musical selection is traditional or has deep-rooted melodic form that makes each a valued part of the collection. Even though two are originals by Pete Fountain and Bud Dant, the mood is kept intact, never broken for an instant. The continuity of Bud Dant's arrangements for both singers, large and small bands; and the instrumental combo head tunes, fit into a perfectly balanced and logical presentation.

In addition to himself, Pete works with either a quartet or quintet. In any case, there is an exact fill which provides complete musical satisfaction - never emptiness. Instrumentally. Pete and Bud Dant have built a unified team with such jazz greats as Stanley Wrightsman, Godfrey Hirsch, Morty Corb, Jack Sperling, Dick Cathcart, Bobby Gibbons, Plas Johnson and others. With such combined talents the intended effect of the numbers included in his various albums is precisely what was originally planned. In this album, and included among the big band personnel on important solo passages, Plas Johnson's tenor sax taste and blend is no accident, neither is his ability. He is a native New Orleans musician who came over the same route as other Greats from the Jazz Cradle. Bobby Gibbons can command, run at will, and impart guitar solidarity wherever required. So much has been written of Jack Sperling that further gilding is redundant. Suffice in making comparisons, odious or not, this is true: Jack has the tremendous technical speed and skill of Buddy Rich, the dynamic solidarity of Krupa; the feeling for cymbal work synonymous with Jo Jones; the depth of improvisational acumen of Baduc, the inherent jazz feeling of Nick Fatool. Morty Corb has bridged the difficult chasm between symphonic legitimacy and absolute jazz improvisation. Though he has lectured on string bass technique before music educators, he also stands alone in great stature in a Pete Fountain group. Always associated with the so-called "Jazz Great," from Ben Pollack on, Stan Wrightsman is another of those sensitive souls who finds perfect affinity with Pete Fountain. And, so capable! I've left until last Godfrey Hirsch. the New Orleans team-mate of Pete who is the regular on vibes. Though he was first known to this writer as a theatre and radio percussionist years ago, he was also a highly capable arranger and vibraharp player. He is accredited with considerable invention which translated, means an outstanding knowledge of harmony, tremendous technical skill with the mallets, and a comparable depth of feeling and overall experience. He can counterpart any musician and mood for the occasion, lead out with the power of Lionel Hampton, improvise with Norvo, and modernize slap vibe mallets into an artistic fulfillment.

No. 1: DIS OL' TRAIN (Fountain) (Singers with Rhythm Section)

The Pete Fountain rhythm section and the Jubilee Singers open this side with some well adapted vocal effects that quicklyget the train rolling out fast. Pete and Jack Sperling open the throttle with some well paced clarineting and drum work that make for a decidedly happy trip. The clarinet justifiably pre-dominates throughout. Use of dynamics, particularly with an exciting by-play drum break and application of chords ranging to a very soft closing, also diminishes the tempo speed to a slow, sustained ending.

No. 2: SING YOU SINNERS (Instrumental- Pete with Quintet)

Sperling establishes the opening pace as an introduction into a medium tempo with Pete's clarinet leading the group. Godfrey Hirsch embellishes the background with vibe figures. On the chorus Pete and Godfrey divide solos backed by strong rhythm. The device of a string bass and guitar stop-chorus by Morty Corb and Bobby Gibbons provides an exceptional taste contrast. Closing out, the technical artistry of Jack points up a fast following ensemble finish.

No. 3: NOBODY KNOWS (Singers with Rhythm Section)

The intro is highlighted by Pete augmenting the Jubilee voices which sustain until the easy-riding tempo is set. Fountain's low register use with the singers provides a remarkably well balanced effect. Particularly outstanding in the happy mood of the chorus is soprano Gwen Johnson, who with the other Jubilees finds exceptional background blending by the rhythm section. The strong beat leads to interplay between Pete's clarinet and vocalist. The ending, as in the beginning. ritards.

No. 4: SWING LOW, SWEET CHARIOT (Instrumental - Pete with Quintet)

As with all small band instrumentals in this album, this selection is a "head arrangement." Guitarist, Bobby Gibbons, always sensitive and competent, has an opening supported by Hirsch vibes and the ensemble. The use of sub tone clarineting by Pete in the first chorus builds up his inspired taste for this spiritual. There is a remarkable and intense feeling here, which is given deep understanding by Pete Fountain. A final ensemble chorus supports the melody, gradually fading in volume to pre-serve the mood.

No. 5: DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE (Instrumental - Big Band)

This rather long instrumental has brilliant instrumental facets which have been carefully interwoven by meticulous arranging. Abridgement, too often influenced through AM radio demands, has not been tolerated here. Morty Corb's bass opens to muted brass figures. The tempo is slow and relaxed. Pete takes over the lead in the first chorus and the declamation is loud. Plas Johnson's tenor is featured in a chorus, providing a transitional deep reed complement to Pete's clarinet. Principally. the listener will note the magnitude and exceptional balance, and the feeling that permeates the entire band. In addition, the full band shows remarkable taste and relaxation. It is appropriate to mention at this point, Pete Fountain's stature as an ensemble clarinetist. Too many solo performers fail in attempts to merge into the whole unit. Not so in the case of Pete, who can pace and merge as the need becomes apparent.

No. 6: LET ME WALK CLOSER TO THEE (Fountain) (Jubilee Singers with Big Band)

This number was a highly successful single record from Pete's first album when made with small combo. The changes in this arrangement with large band, became apparent. The captivatingly beautiful melody finds a thrilling performance by the Jubilee Singers. Bringing hack this spiritual with such a blend of voices and big band provides an emotional unforgettable experience in music. The clarinet responsibility taken over by Pete Fountain provides further proof of his ensemble mastery.

No. 1: YES INDEED (Jubilee Singers with Rhythm Section)

The fourteen voice choir - eight men and six girls, work with the small band on this Ray Charles number. Pete has a short cadenza that gets it jumping in a spirited mood. The choir answers Pete with the title words while the rhythm section drives on in the background. String bass and guitar take over a chorus dividing the honors; then the first driving chorus repeats. The Fountain clarinet is the emphatic force. There is a uniquely stated ending - very exceptional. A single of this title would be a smash hit!

No. 2: SWING LOW, SWEET CLARINET (Singers with Rhythm Section)

The title song of the album is taken at a slow, relaxed gait, with the introduction pointing up eight male voices and a girl. Pete opens with a broad, low register clarinet which he uses through the first chorus. His melodic improvisations are exceptionally brilliant, giving him full opportunity for sincere expression. This number showcases Fountain's virtuosity, and allows him full freedom of expression and further opportunities for invention.

No. 3: IF I GO TO THE PROMISED LAND (Eddie Miller-Matty Matlock Original) (Instrumental - Big Band)

Coming from the pens of Miller-Matlock, with Matty's arranging, this up tune is a captivating spiritual in mood, typically New Orleans in character. The sixteen piece band is dynamically powerful here, then softens for a muted trumpet chorus by Dick Cathcart with Pete. Never at any time does the Fountain clarinet lose identity, nor does Pete relinquish his masterful work in the ensemble - a mood he established and which is picked up by the band to a finish.

No. 4: I TALK TO THE KING (Fountain)(Instrumental Sextet)

This is a traditional New Orleans spiritual type number opened by Sperling's drums, sending patterns via the great Ben Pollack touch. So typical is the jazz mood here that Godfrey Hirsch takes off on vibes with slap mallets - and the taste is excellent. This is a marcher type of number - typical of the traditional New Orleans street parades. So realistic is the feeling and interpretation that one envisions the marchers. Sperling provides a great, full beat to give the tune virility. Pete becomes exuberant in his chorus, transmitting unbounded excitement to the listener. Keeping the Dixie theme and mood, Jack Sperling applies parade drum licks in the bridge which heighten the excitement. Fountain's final chorus finds him in low register, complemented rhythmically by the group then, to a guitar ending by Bobby Gibbons.


There are many tunes recorded today in odd tempi, too many of which remain inconsequential. Here, however, is a vivid, thrilling exception: the tempo is 5/4, patterns of which are established in the intro by Sperling. Pete comes on with his big tone and feeling to emphasize the melody and tricky tempo. The brass section screams a chorus underscored by brilliant percussion and rhythm. The bridge reverts to 4/4 and a chorus in the same tempo in which Pete's clarinet capably leads out. A special kick is in store for the careful listener during a two measure drum break in which Sperling cleverly assumes the original 5/4 tempo. There is no transition to the 5/4 final chorus except the insidious switch-over Jack provides. The final chorus is loud and clear and has no finality except for a chord sustentation to end. This is a very dramatic offering!

No. 6: JOSHUA FIT DE BATTLE OF JERICHO (Instrumental Big Band)

Drums open brilliantly, then Pete takes over and the big band assumes the first chores. This is a highly exciting, up tempo screamer. Full use of dynamics makes this a thrilling experience. There are clarinet contrasts, subdued rhythm, and excellent use of trombone pedal tones against Pete's instrument. Always. there is strong supporting rhythm. An ensemble bridge returns the musical thought to the opening strains, where rhythm again takes over; then, a final chorus where all stops are pulled out without reservation. Sperling rides this one out with technical, driving gusto.

There can be no doubt over the ultimate destiny of this album. The combined use of Jubilee Singers with Pete Fountain and his groups becomes a satisfying musical experience. It is fitting that this first album usage of the vocalists and musicians be in the traditional vein. Certainly, there has been no recorded similarity in this specific age with such outstanding success. This cannot be considered in the light of an experiment, for singing of this happy, exuberant type of music is as old as early jazz
expression in New Orleans.

Sam Rowland


sharon said...


My Dad is looking for a Pete Fountain song he has heard on the music channels on cable TV. He thinks it is named Talk and says it demonstrates Pete's ability to make the clarinet talk.

Does this ring a bell with you?


sharon said...


My Dad is looking for a song he heard on a music channel on cable tv. He thinks it is called Talk and says it is Pete making the clarinet talk.

Any ideas?


sharon said...


My Dad is looking for a Pete Fountain song he has heard on the music channels on cable TV. He thinks it is named Talk and says it demonstrates Pete's ability to make the clarinet talk.

Does this ring a bell with you?