Carl Fontana was one of the most talented and innovative trombonists of his generation. He became known as a lyrical, technically brilliant and inventive soloist. His fluid style was quite different from the bebop staccato of his great contemporaries, such as J.J. Johnson and Frank Rosolino.
Despite having established himself as one of the most talented and innovative trombonists of his generation, Fontana did not record an album as a leader until the 1985 release of The Great Fontana, in which he leads a quintet featuring longtime associate Al Cohn on tenor sax, Ray Drummond on bass, Richard Wyands on piano and Akira Tana on drums. “I Thought About You” is one track from the album that shows Fontana’s trademark taste and skill on a standard that he performed frequently throughout his career.
Fontana was also greatly admired for his mastery of the “Doodle Tonguing” technique, a technique he developed for playing rapid-fire passages with technical brilliance in double-time phrasing. This skill allowed Fontana to smoothly execute “runs of notes” at speeds many had not previously considered possible to achieve on a slide trombone.
His first break into the professional jazz scene came in 1951, when 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.
“I don’t think I ever heard Carl play a bad solo,” Scott Whitfield maintains,. “He definitely did not have a big ego and he did not have a star trip going on. He was just a good guy who enjoyed life, and enjoyed going through life in a relaxed fashion.” That was Carl Fontana, a genuine person and the trombonist’s trombonist.