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Carl Fontana

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Born in Monroe, Louisiana, Fontana learned jazz music from his father Collie, a saxophonist and violin player, and first performed with his father’s band while in high school. Fontana attended the school known today as University of Louisiana Monroe for two years. He then transferred to Louisiana State University, receiving his degree in Music Education in 1950.

His first break into the professional jazz scene came the following year, when in 1951 he was hired to stand in for one of Woody Herman’s regular trombonists, Urbie Green. Herman was so impressed with Fontana, particularly his improvisational skills, that when Green returned Herman kept Fontana on as a permanent member of the band.

After three years with Herman, Fontana joined Lionel Hampton’s big band in 1954. In early 1955 he played briefly with Hal McIntyre before joining Stan Kenton’s big band later in the year. He recorded three albums with Kenton and also worked with fellow trombonist Kai Winding during this period.

Recording and touring with these various bands, Fontana became known as a lyrical, inventive soloist. His fluid style was quite different from the be-bop staccato of his great contemporaries Johnson and Frank Rosolino. Fontana was also greatly admired for his mastery of the “Doodle Tonguing” technique, particularly by fellow trombonists. This skill allowed Fontana to smoothly execute runs of notes at speeds many had not previously considered possible to achieve on a slide trombone.

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