New Orleans clarinetist Pete Fountain has passed at 86.
When I was a kid my dad played a lot of Dixieland and New Orleans jazz records around the house. He could tell all the players by their sound and he often quizzed me. Who’s that on trombone, son? Who’s playing clarinet. Listen to that piano, you know who that is.
“When I was a high school senior, my history teacher asked me why I didn’t study more,” he wrote in 2001, in the notes of a CD anthology of his recordings from the 1950s and 1960s. “I answered that I was too busy playing clarinet every night, and when I told him I was making scale — about $125 a week — he said that was more than he made and I should play full time. I guess I was a professional from that point on.”
Of course it would take many years before I could appreciate his music (parents get smarter as their kids get older, right?). As much as I protested, I learned a little about old jazz because he played it quite a bit. Pete Fountain was one of the players I never would have known about without that early introduction to jazz around the house.
Here he is playing with Al Hirt in 1979…
Pete Fountain RIP. Thanks for the music.