Carl Fontana

Carl Charles Fontana

Fontana at Ball State University, 1989
Background information
Also known as The Captain[1]
Born (1928-07-18)July 18, 1928
Origin Monroe, Louisiana
Died October 9, 2003(2003-10-09) (aged 75)
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Performer
Instruments Trombone

Carl Charles Fontana (July 18, 1928 - October 9, 2003) was an American jazz trombonist.

After stints in the big bands of Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton and Stan Kenton, Fontana devoted most of his career to playing music in Las Vegas.

Early career

His first break into the professional jazz scene came in 1951 he was hired to stand in for one of Woody Herman's regular trombonists, Urbie Green. 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 and also Chicago pianist and Playboy executive, Sam Distefano at Sam's Miami nightclub, The Stut 'N Tut. He later joined Stan Kenton's big band. Fontana recorded three albums with Kenton and also worked with fellow trombonist Kai Winding during this period.

After 1958, Fontana would tour only on rare occasions, such as a 1966 tour of Africa with Herman's band sponsored by the U.S. State Department. He primarily performed with house orchestras in Las Vegas during the 1960s, particularly Paul Anka's band (with Rosolino). He also performed in the bands backing Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Wayne Newton, and the Benny Goodman orchestra.

Later career

In the 1970s, he continued performing in house orchestras and lounges in Las Vegas. He also recorded with various other artists during this time, such as Louie Bellson, Bill Watrous, and Supersax. It was not until 1975 that Fontana recorded an album as an ensemble co-leader. He shared the billing for this record, The Hanna-Fontana Band: Live at Concord (on Concord Jazz) with drummer Jake Hanna. Fontana toured in Japan with this ensemble. In 1978 he was featured on the jazz trombone recording Bobby Knight’s Great American Trombone Company, alongside Charles Loper, Lew McCreary, Frank Rosolino, Phil Teele, and Bobby Knight.

In the 1980s, he appeared regularly on National Public Radio's Monday Night Jazz program. His first true record as a headliner was the Uptown Jazz release The Great Fontana (1985).

In 2001 Carl joined The West Coast all Stars and played an outstanding concert in Stuttgart Germany. He was joined by Conte Condoli – Trumpet - Teddy Edwards – Tenor Pete Jolly – Piano - Chuck Berghofer – Bass and Joe LaBarbara – Drums. Carl was featured on If I only Had a Brain, from the hit movie Over the Rainbow. His version can be seen on YouTube and he and Pete Jolly combine with Berghofer and LaBarbera for a wonderful rendition.

A review of his performance states, "Carl Fontana has graced many bands and recording sessions and has always been regarded as one of the world’s top trombone players. It is easy to see why on this session and his solo on If I Only had a Brain stops the show."

Fontana died October 9, 2003, in Las Vegas, Nevada, aged 75 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease.[2]


With Woody Herman

With Louis Bellson

With Stan Kenton

With Jiggs Whigham

With Kai Winding



  1. Lawrence Koch & Barry Kernfeld. "Fontana, Carl". In L. Root, Deane. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
  2. "Carl Fontana, 75; Innovative Jazz Trombonist". Los Angeles Times. October 11, 2003. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
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