Carl Fontana

Fontana was born in Monroe, Louisiana. He learned jazz music from his father Collie. His father is a saxophonist, violin player and saxophonist. Fontana performed his first concert with the father’s band in high school. Fontana attended University of Louisiana Monroe for two year. Fontana then transferred to Louisiana State University and received his degree in Music Education, in 1950. He was then hired in 1951 to replace Woody Herman’s regular trombonist, Urbie Green. This was his first foray into professional jazz. Fontana impressed Herman so much, especially his ability to improvise, that he was kept on by Herman as a permanent member. Fontana was a member of Lionel Hampton’s big-band in 1954 after three years of being with Herman. He briefly played with Hal McIntyre in early 1955 before joining Stan Kenton’s big band later that year. He recorded three albums and worked alongside fellow trombonist Kai Winding. Fontana was a creative soloist who became well-known for his lyrical and inventive performances. Fontana’s fluid style was very different from Johnson and Frank Rosolino’s be-bop stractoto. Fontana’s mastery of “Doodle Tonguing”, a technique used by trombonists, was also highly praised. Fontana was able to execute smooth runs of notes at speeds that were not possible on a slide trombone. Fontana, who was born in 1958, moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. He would not tour again after that, except for a 1966 African tour with Herman’s orchestra, which was sponsored by the U.S. State Department. He instead performed with the Las Vegas house orchestras of the 1960s, especially Paul Anka’s (with Rosolino). He was also a member of the Benny Goodman Orchestra, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr. and Wayne Newton. He continued to perform in Las Vegas’ house orchestras and lounges throughout the 1970s. He recorded several other artists in this period, including Louie Bellson and Bill Watrous. Fontana’s first album as an ensemble leader was recorded in 1975. Fontana shared the recording of The Hanna-Fontana Band Live at Concord (on Concord Jazz), with drummer Jake Hanna. Fontana also toured Japan with this group, which was unusual for that time period. He was part of Bobby Knight’s Great American Trombone Company’s 1978 jazz trombone recording, along with Charles Loper and Lew McCreary. Recorded live at Donte’s in North Hollywood, his solos on “Strike up the Band” and “I Got Rhythm” showcase his mastery of the doodle tonguing technique. He was a regular on National Public Radio’s Monday Night Jazz show in the 1980s. He recorded more than 70 albums during his long career. However, his first real record as a headliner was not until 1985 when Uptown Jazz published The Great Fontana (1985). This was his first solo release as a headliner. Fontana is a prolific musician, and this long record without a single headliner release is quite unusual. The Great Fontana is the most prominent single entry in Fontana’s discography. He recorded and performed sporadically through the 1990s. Although Carl Fontana didn’t achieve much fame among jazz audiences, it is safe to say that he is on every great jazz trombonists’ list. Fontana is cited by Watrous as his favorite trombonist. The two recorded a record near the end Fontana’s career.

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