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.
Track Listing: Avalon; Tin Roof Blues; Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans; It Had to Be You; My Blue Heaven; Georgia on My Mind; Basin Street Blues; Marie; Just a Closer Walk with Thee; Home; Shine; You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me; Up a Lazy River; Summer Wind (47:17).
Personnel: John Bahler, music director; Pete Fountain, clarinet; Dave Johnson, Michael Mantley, Wes Marshall, Jay Daversa, trumpet; Carl Hose, Charlie Rastorfer, trombone; Jim Miller, bass trombone; Archie Wheeler, Chris Deusinger, alto sax, clarinet; Ron HeLuie, Jim Murphy, tenor sax, clarinet; Bill Reder, baritone sax, clarinet; D
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.