Sunday, August 26, 2007

New Orleans All Stars - Tradition Records

New Orleans All Stars

Inserts Below (5 page booklet in liners notes)

1997 Tradition Records TCD 1047 Mono

CD Listing
1. South Rampart Street Parade
2. Sensation Rag
3. Sunset In Paradise
4. In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree
5. Bayou Blues
6. Jazz Me Blues
7. Bugle Call Rag
8. Saint James Infirmary
9. When The Saints Go Marching

Liner Notes:

Reissue produced by Anton Glovsky - Sonically cleansed using the Cedar system, Digital restoration by Allen Lowe - Series design by Steven Jurgensmeyer Cover photography courtesy of Michael Ochs - Archive Research by Nick Olney and Eric Johnson.

New Orleans All-Stars - Clarinetist Pete Fountain still reigns supreme as the king of New Orleans jazz. Recorded in 1957. this comprehensive collection of various sessions features inspired solos by Fountain. pianists. trombonists. trumpeters. and even the occasional tuba player.

The Tradition reissue of this album includes new comprehensive liner notes. The mastertapes were digitally restored and remastered for this release.

Pete Fountain: clarinet
Tony Almerico: trumpet
Jack Delaney: trombone
Roy Zimmerman: piano
Lester Bouchon: clarinet. tenor saxophone
Frank Frederico: guitar
Joe Lovacano: bass
Johnny Castain: drums

5 Page Booklet:

New Orleans is a strange and wondrous place, a city of great mystique to those of us who view it at a distance, but a home of some fickleness to those who try to make a living playing music there. Like many great musical cities of jazz's formative years, it seemed to expel some of the best and brightest of its pioneers with the hostility of poor working conditions, low pay, and general neglect (the early trombonist George Brunis said the best thing about New Orleans was the next train out of town). Some, however, saw fit to return to this city which was, if not the actual cradle of jazz, than its place of deepest and most profound incubation.

We won't spend a lot of time on the racial politics of this city, except to note that a) it is no accident that so much great music developed in a city of such great cross-racial acculturation, and b) racism still thrived here as it did in the rest of the South throughout the pre- and post-war years. Our point is only to show how upside down the world of race and culture is; how, in a music whose pioneers have always been African-Americans, the danger is of ignoring the essence by which we ought to make our musical judgments. That essence is the music itself, which, in its purist state, exists apart from the not-so-petty political squabbles that cloud the realities of our historical record.

Pete Fountain is a clarinetist who comes very deeply from within the New Orleans jazz tradition. Though capable, in the spotlight, of some very glib and shallow performance, he is also, in the final analysis, a very fine improviser, with the deep, hard but velvety tone typical of that school. He is one native son to whom the city has been particularly hospitable, succeeding not only on a national stage (he's one of the few jazzmen who ever had a regular booking on The Tonight Show) but also in a local venue, the club in the Crescent City where he's been based for some time. Maybe it's a matter of concentration and conviction, but when Fountain wants to he can play in a very emotionally and technically convincing style that, while fitting into the revivalist scheme of things, shows he's not unaware of changes in the body music over the last forty or so years. Yes, he does dip into the businessman's bounce repertoire now and then, but he shows an equal affinity for those parts of the mainstream repertoire that illustrate other sides of New Orleans' musical developments.

Born in New Orleans in 1930, Fountain began playing professionally at age twelve. From the earliest stages of his career, he showed a knack for landing in ensembles with great commercial staying power. At age twenty-five, he did an extended stint with the Dukes of Dixieland, and then followed this with an association with Al Hirt. For two years. he worked in a venue which gave him his greatest visibility and propelled him to popular stardom, The Lawrence Welk Show. Welk featured him regularly and, even in that somewhat corny and cliche environment, Fountain managed to forge an image of himself as the ultimate Dixieland clarinetist, an image he carries to this day.

On "St. James Infirmary," we hear what is obviously a working band, with a fine and idiomatic muted trumpet solo. In this "old timey" rendition, as elsewhere on this CD. we hear more than just hints that these musicians are well aware of more modern schools of playing, and the references they make to them are pithy and convincing. Listen, as well, to the piano solo, a very fine alternation of Hinesian, stop-start rhythm and well-placed chords. Essentially a blues, "St. James Infirmary" has proved itself to be a durable piece of the Swing-Dixieland repertoire.

"South Rampart Street Parade" is much more a part of the traditional street-parade sound of New Orleans if, unfortunately, here its polyphony is a bit too smoothly integrated. Listen to Fountain's interesting tonal amalgamation of native influence and Benny Goodman, his sweet. woody sound. The ensemble rides this out in that raucous but still somehow polite manner typical of the commercial side of this music, and it all comes to a typically cacophonous, New Year's Eye end.

"Bayou Blues" is a newer sounding piece, with very nice clarinet against a moody background. This is Tin Pan Alley gone South, and nonetheless pleasant for its probable less-than-authentic beginnings. The guitar takes a very pleasantly lyrical solo with an almost acoustic sound, a chordally-based turn that perfectly complements Fountain's central and recurring role. The trumpet plays a fine paraphrase of the melody, constructing his thoughtful solo from the intervals of the song.

"Sensation Rag" comes from deep within the commercial repertoire of New Orleans, from the earliest work of groups like The Original Dixieland Jazz Band and, probably, from the popular parade bands of the early part of the century. Its multi-strain structure places it as coming from the world of ragtime, as does its double time character and basic, march-like feel. This performance reflects, as well, the stomping spirit of the Dixieland revival movement, its populist reach and demographically broad appeal. Listen, particularly, to the trombone solo, which manages to sound very old fashioned, with its on-the-beat phraseology, yet still betrays a new world sensibility.

"In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree" has some of the finest soloing on this album, with good, strong trumpet playing, showing the power of the "lead" player, yet still minutely sensitive to group sound and balance. Fountain begins his solo in the clarinet's gorgeous low register, and stays there almost throughout. As usual in his playing, there's a bit of tension between his desire to sound like a down home player and his obvious knowledge of swing and post-swing clarinet. Though these varying impulses sometimes give him a surface slickness, he generally makes them work in his favor, imparting a smooth and breezy quality to his ensemble work.

"Jazz Me Blues" is of the old school, a different kind of bugle call rag. one of a stomping. hand-clapping call to arms. This is the classic sound of the most commercial side of the New Orleans school, with its very careful counterpoint and pleasing backbeat-based dance style.

"Sunset Parade" is an infectious dance-like number, and we hear, for neither the first or last time in this CD. the influence of Louis Armstrong. Fountain's solo is the center of the piece, with his usual precise and symmetrical liquid phrasing, and we hear a Yiddish turn of musical phrase by the trumpeter in what sounds almost like a piece from a Jewish wedding - not altogether surprising from a city as racially and ethnically mixed as New Orleans. The trombonist shows more than a little bit of a Teagarden-ish frame of mind, and the ensemble closes with its usual carefully arranged, but quite enthusiastic, ride out.

These are a few of the highlights of this very varied set. Fountain. still active as of this writing. is that rarity, a prosperous jazz musician of great renown, still highly visible in his hometown, and still an attraction on the touring circuit. Recorded in New Orleans, 1957.

Liner notes by Allen Lowe

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