Pete Fountain has retired from performing.
The Pete Fountain fans who filled the Economy Hall Tent at the 2013 New Orleans Jazz Fest unknowingly bore witness to bittersweet history: The farewell performance by one of the greats of New Orleans music in general, and traditional jazz clarinet specifically.I missed last year's Jazzfest set but I did get to see some of Pete's performance there in 2012 from way in the back row.
"Last year was his last public performance," Benny Harrell, Fountain's son-in-law and longtime manager, said Thursday (April 17). "He's fully retired now."
Although we were barely even inside the tent at the time, a Jazzfest attendee turned around and shushed us for talking while Pete was playing. This incident may have been reported in NOLA.com's review of the set.
He enraptured the crowd during "Basin Street Blues." The air smelled like the recognizable Jazz Fest triumvirate of trampled grass, sweat and beer. A seated patron shushed chatter in the back row.Or maybe this was a reference to other shushing going on near us. Either way, it's a true life story.
The article about his retirement says Fountain is going to continue riding with his marching club on Mardi Gras morning. I've gotten several photos of him doing this over the years. Here he is in 2009 with his clarinet.