TEAGARDEN, Jack: It's Time for T (1929-1953) (Naxos: 8.120825)
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Jack Teagarden Vol. 2
'It's Time For T' - Original Recordings 1929-1953
Jack Teagarden's recording career spanned a period of 35 years. He recorded his first session on 2 December 1927 and his last studio session in June 1962, although private recordings exist as late as 11 November 1963, just two months before his death on 15 January 1964.
Unfortunately, Jack's recording career began late compared to many of his contemporaries and other now-legendary jazz musicians, who were making records as early as 1922. There are no examples of Jack's playing during his early career while he worked in the southwestern United States from 1921 to 1926 with the bands of Peck Kelley, the Original Southern Trumpeters, Doc Ross, Johnny Youngberg and the New Orleans Rhythm Masters. A missed opportunity to record with Peck Kelley in Houston in 1925 while the Victor Company was there to record local bands will remain a source of frustration for record collectors.
However, Jack Teagarden did leave a tremendous library of recordings during his career. Although he was a prolific recording artist, we can categorize his primary involvement as a musician during his recording career into five major periods. From 1928 to 1933, he was a member of the Ben Pollack orchestra before joining the Paul Whiteman band for a period of five years, from 1934 to 1938. From 1939 to 1946, Teagarden led his own big band, struggling to keep it together during the Second World War. The fourth phase of his career was as a member of the Louis Armstrong All Stars from 1947 to 1951, before spending the last twelve years of his life as a small group leader traveling the world with his sextet.
Ben Pollack told his story of the June 1928 hiring of Jack Teagarden in a January 1937 Down Beat
article:"Somebody mentioned a kid from Texas by the name of Jack Teagarden, who was staying out on the West Side. I grabbed a cab and a few minutes later, I walked into a dingy room where a trumpet player by the name of Johnny Bayersdorffer was reading a paper under a gas jet.
"I couldn't believe it, but I said, 'Hello, Johnny, I'm looking for some kid from Texas by the name of Teagarden that is supposed to play a lot of trombone'. Johnny gestured to a small cot on the other side of the room and said, 'That's him'. 'Can he read?' I said. 'He's the best,' Johnny replied. 'Well, I got a job for him', I said. Bayersdorffer walked over to the cot and shook the prostrate form of the kid from Texas and said, 'Jack, you got a job in Atlantic City tonight, get up'. But he only grumbled, 'Man, I just got here. I don't want to go nowhere'.
"All shaking from then on was useless, and Johnny said to me - 'Don't pay any attention to what he said, Benny, he's knocked out!' Disgusted, I started to go, when Bayersdorffer said, 'Well, there goes your job with Benny Pollack'. At the mention of my name, the kid jumped up from the cot and said, 'Man, are you Benny Pollack? When do I leave?' I told him train time was at 6 p.m. and he would have to shuffle." Jack knew the importance of the invitation to join the Ben Pollack orchestra. He had known about the Pollack band since 1925. Teagarden had been in New York for just six months and he was about to become a member of one of the best bands in the nation.
Jack's brother, Charlie Teagarden, once told me, "When we were in the Paul Whiteman band we didn't even know there was a depression going on. We were travelling first class all the way!" Jack became a featured member of Paul Whiteman's organisation on 1 December 1933, and Charlie joined the Whiteman orchestra on Christmas Day replacing Bunny Berigan. Charlie talked about becoming a member in an interview published in Melody Maker magazine on 28 August 1937:"Jack and I have always gotten along pretty well, and soon we were in a permanent job together again in Paul Whiteman's Orchestra. I remember the date I joined Paul. It was Christmas night in 1933. My brother is under contract until 1938.
"Playing with a big band of this type, with very occasional opportunities to play swing music, makes more difference to a musician than most people can possibly imagine. In the first place, you scarcely have any occasion to improvise. This naturally puts you completely out of gear as a swing man, and the lack of practice of that kind of work makes itself felt.
"All the same, I have naturally had to increase the scope of my work so enormously that the job has benefited me in other ways, and I suppose that to ensure keeping one's technique up to scratch there is no better position than the one I occupy." Jack led his own big band for almost eight years, from February 1939 to November 1946. During this period he had to face the difficulties of starting up and becoming established, endure lawsuits, bankruptcy, a divorce and a marriage, as well as Wartime rationing and restrictions, and a constant change of personnel due to the drafting of men for the War effort.
There was an endless stream of one-nighters, often involving 300-mile jumps, causing road accidents and breakdowns. Travel difficulties occurred in the use of personal cars, and by bus, by train, and by Armed Forces transport cargo planes - all this while maintaining a heavy schedule of drinking by Jack and many of the members of his band.
It was no accident that Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden found each other. They were both in a category set apart, and their musical ability and respect for each other brought them together not only musically but also as friends who were comfortable together naturally. With the success of the concerts in New York, it was obvious that Louis should continue to lead a small group instead of a large band and that Jack Teagarden should be the first choice as one of the band members.
In late 1958 the U. S. Department of State sponsored a four-month tour by the Jack Teagarden Sextet to the Far East and the Orient in keeping with the policy of presenting outstanding American musical artists as a gesture of friendship to the rest of the world.
"One of the highlights, I guess, was leaving New York and landing in Afghanistan and just turning around after leaving this beautiful airplane, and here comes a camel at me." Thus was Jack's first comment to television host Dave Garroway, during his first public appearance upon his return to the States. Jack spoke with pride on that morning of 26 March 1959 while making a guest appearance on the NBC-TV 'Today Show'. During the Far East trip, he had learned that in some of the most remote corners of the world his name and reputation were recognized, he had served as a missionary to preserve the cultural legacy of jazz music, and he had served his country. His pride was justified.
On Friday, 23 January 1959, Jack Teagarden returned home to Los Angeles from the longest road trip of his life. He was to enter a new phase of his career after 38 years as a professional musician. The next three years would be the most successful of the twelve years he led his own sextet. Paralleling Jack's position in his life to that of a baseball runner at third base might best describe his status - he was heading home.
Jack Teagarden's early demise at age 58 is one of the great tragedies in the story of jazz. We are fortunate to have so many of his great recordings and a cross section of some of the best appear here in this second Naxos compilation. Joe Showler