Here is the next review... Not only is this yet another album I downloaded from Ernie at his blog last year, but I have I been obsessively listening to this album for the past week.
I'm hoping that this spasm of typing will get this album out of my system. I fear it won't. It will be like any other addiction - you go cold turkey, it gnaws at you, you crave the fix, and eventually you give in.
Up front: This was one of my favorite albums downloaded last year.
Now you may be asking to yourself "Who is Pete Fountain?". Others might be asking "Okay, is this a hypothetical question or just a segue into today's history lesson?"
In any case, Pete Fountain is one of the premier clarinetists of this or any era. Born in 1930 in New Orleans, Fountain was surrounded by Dixieland from the cradle to his formative years. This was the era of Benny Goodman and Irving Fazola, a New Orleans clarinetist who greatly influenced the young Pete. Fountain quickly developed his own "fat" sound from the clarinet and by age 16, he was playing with several jazz bands up and down Bourbon Street.
As the 1950s began, he was performing with the best known Dixieland bands of the era: The Dukes of Dixieland, The Basin Street Six, and a young trumpeter starting to make a name for himself named Al Hirt. Around this time, Pete met a young gal by the name of Beverly Lang - his future wife of 54 years and counting.
Then came rock-n-roll. The Dixieland music market quickly dried up and Fountain needed a place to play his clarinet. Where to go and who to see? That's as simple as counting... And ah-one and ah-two! Pete became the in-house clarinetist for Lawrence Welk and company - good timing too. It was between these years (1957 - 1959) that Welk's TV show was the most popular according to the Nielsens.
However, Fountain longed to be home near Beverly and his beloved New Orleans. So he left Welk and returned to his hometown, opened his own place (Pete Fountain's Jazz Club) where he still occasionally plays, went on to record over 100 albums, and toured all over the world bringing Dixieland into the far reaching corners of the Earth.
"Candy Clarinet" was recorded and released in 1967 and still sounds incredibly vital and fresh today. The first licks off the clarinet stick will hook you and not let go. If you can, listen past the clarinet and you'll hear some fantastic jazz as well. Standout tracks include the title track "Candy Clarinet", "Winter Wonderland" is just plain haunting, "The Little Drummer Boy" - great bass playing, and "Christmas Is A-Comin" ends the album with a fantastic jam from all involved.
It's a great, great album.
Almost a year ago, Hurricane Katrina paid a visit to New Orleans and its massive destruction misplaced many people - including Pete and Beverly Fountain's home. They still reside in New Orleans and have committed themselves to helping rebuild the city and state they've known all their lives. At 75, Pete can still blow a mean clarinet.
Thanks Pete for a great Christmas album, all that you've done with your "Candy Clarinet", and all that you're doing in the Big Easy.
On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection...