Week Two of Doug’s survey of jazz trombonists of note continues on April 13, at 8 pm with recordings featuring Carl Fontana. He not only had incredible technical facility but the ability to weave beautifully melodic solos. It’s been said that the best-written music sounds improvised and the best-improvised solos sound as if they were composed. The latter certainly applies to Carl Fontana.
Born in 1928 in Monroe, Louisiana, he played in his father’s band in the 1940s before joining the Woody Herman Orchestra around 1950 and the Stan Kenton Orchestra in the mid-1950s. He also was part of fellow trombonist Kai Winding’s Septet in the late 1950s before largely disappearing from the jazz scene in the 1960s to play in Las Vegas show bands.
He resurfaced in the jazz world in the 1970s but was an infrequent visitor to recording studios. His introduction to many young trombonists (like me) was as a sideman on Med Flory’s Supersax album from 1974 “Salt Peanuts: Supersax Plays Bird Volume 2”.
During this time Carl could be heard at various jazz parties and festivals around the US including Dick Gibson’s held in Colorado Springs and Denver.
Having purchased the Supersax album when it was first issued, I stumbled upon a 2LP set in 1975 called Colorado Jazz Party at Pearl Alley Discs, a record shop directly across from The Ohio State University. It was only $1.99 and, among its many musicians were four trombonists: Kai Winding, Urbie Green, Trummy Young, and Carl Fontana. It was probably the best $1.99 I ever spent. Actually, $3.98 as I bought two copies, one for me and another for a friend who like me, was a trombonist at Bowling Green State University. The album was recorded during the Dick Gibson jazz party held over Labor Day weekend in 1971 at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. Carl Fontana may have played finer solos in his long career but his rendition of Johnny Mandel’s “Emily” is perhaps his definitive recorded performance.
It’s one of many great solos you’ll hear on Wednesday evening including Carl recorded at the Concord Jazz Festival in 1975 with another definitive solo on “A Beautiful Friendship”, a 1985 studio album “The Great Fontana” with saxophonist Al Cohn and “Heavyweights” an album from 1996 with Carl in the company of trumpeter Bobby Shew.
Carl passed away in 2003 after having suffered the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease for the last couple years of his life.
If you’re a trombonist I’m sure you will enjoy this show. And even if you’re not, I think you’ll find a lot to like.
Tune in Wednesday, April 13 beginning at 8 pm for The Night Beat with your host Doug Crane. Only on KUVO JAZZ.
Stay connected to KUVO’s programs and our community’s activities, Sign up for the station’s Oasis Online E-newsletter today!