Carl Fontana

The Fifties

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Trombonist Carl Fontana spent the early part of his career playing with a number of different big bands, including groups led by Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, and Stan Kenton, the latter being the leader with whom he grew his reputation. Tiring of travel, he settled in Las Vegas playing commercial music for several decades (still taking time out for some brief tours with jazz bands), though he started leading jazz gigs and occasionally recording as a leader beginning in the '80s. This compilation comes from several different radio and television broadcasts plus some studio dates. The first set features Fontana leading a quintet with tenorist Vido Musso (a last-minute substitute for an injured Charlie Ventura). Fontana easily outshines Musso with his effortless but brief rapid-fire solo in "Lester Leaps In," while each man takes half of a ballad medley as an individual feature. Several numbers feature Fontana with members of the Kenton band plus pianist Henri Renaud. Fontana's intricate solo in Charlie Parker's "Scrapple from the Apple" is humorous at times, while Horace Silver's soulful "Buhaina" showcases trumpeter Dickie Mills and the trombonist. Fontana is the featured player in two selections with the Jimmy Cook Big Band, playing a powerful solo in "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" buoyed by Bill Holman's richly textured arrangement and adding some pep to an already breezy "Soon." The final two tracks showcase Fontana in concert with Kenton in Berlin playing two Bill Holman charts, including "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and the arranger's own "Carl.""Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and the arranger's own "Carl." These vintage recordings from 1956 to 1960 are of surprising audio quality, making them essential for fans of the late Carl Fontana, who succumbed to Alzheimer's disease in 2003.

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