When writing in a recent review about the scarcity of top–notch Jazz clarinetists on the scene today, I managed to overlook one — a pardonable error, as Pete Fountain has been sequestered for so long in his native New Orleans that it’s fairly easy for him to fly under one’s radar screen. Nevertheless, there’s no denying that Pete’s a master of his instrument, or that he’s quite comfortable in any context from duo to big band (even though he hadn’t recorded with a large ensemble for thirty years before taking part in Big Band Blues ). While Fountain is a sure bet, the “new” Lawrence Welk Orchestra is something else again. Even though I never thought I’d be using the words “swing” and “Lawrence Welk” in the same sentence, I must admit that Welk’s orchestra, now directed by John Bahler, can — and does — swing when it has to. The band is composed of capable musicians who lend Fountain admirable support on every number. Its role, however, is strictly back–up, as Pete is the lone soloist. These are songs he knows like the back of his hand, and could probably play blindfolded and with only one hand. That’s not meant to suggest, however, that he doesn’t give each one a pleasurable ride. One would expect no less from Fountain, especially when performing with an orchestra whose departed leader gave him his career–making gig in 1957. If you’re one of Pete’s many fans who’ve missed hearing his mellow clarinet since Welk’s long–running television show left the air, this album should give you ample reason to smile. “As we sat in the recording booth listening to each performance,” says producer Steve Buckingham, “one could hear how Pete and the band were inspiring each other.” It would have been nice had the inspiration lasted beyond forty–seven minutes, but that’s better than nothing. For Welk / Fountain enthusiasts, candy for the ears.
Contact:Ranwood Records, 2700 Pennsylvania Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404.
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