Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Big Band Jazz Clarinet: Essential Performances (6)

6. Pete Fountain * The Blues * 1959

In 1959, Pete Fountain came to his famous realization that "Champagne and Bourbon don't mix", decided that Hollywood just wasn't for him, and packed his family for the return trip to New Orleans. But before he left, he cut two very important albums. The first, Pete Fountain's New Orleans, seamlessly blended Pete's New Orleans style clarinet with a cool, West Coast rhythm section. It went on to become one of Fountain's best selling records, and is still available for download over sixty years later. The second, equally impressive despite having sadly slipped into obscurity, is Pete's first collaboration with the large ensemble scoring of Charles 'Bud' Dant, entitled The Blues.

These arrangements are streamlined, '50s-chic Big Band Charts, demonstrating the polish musicians brought to them in that day. The band was comprised of the top musicians in L.A. at the time, many of them veterans of the Big Band era.

Some of these tracks, especially the impressive lead-off 'St Louis Blues' have been reissued in compilation albums, but many (such as 'Blue Fountain') have been oddly neglected over the six decades since it was recorded. They capture Pete's playing at a moment of particular brilliance. His legendary fat, liquidy sound is all there, from the bottom to the top of the horn. Few clarinetists have ever matched the timbral beauty throughout the horn's range that Pete has.

There are still a few vinyl discs of this great album floating around. Get a stereo copy if you can (they were pressed in both stereo and mono--the stereo versions have a blue "Coral Stereo" strip at the top). Hopefully this great album will be made available for download soon.


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