Shortly before selling his soul to Paul Whiteman for five long years, trombonist Weldon Leo "Jack" Teagarden and his orchestra made three beautiful recordings that still sound uncommonly cool, honest, and authentic. This session, which took place in New York on September 18, 1934, closes out Teagarden's early years as a bandleader. The instrumental "Junk Man" is a relaxed blues ambulation of remarkable depth and subtlety, featuring string harpist Casper Reardon who swung easily in a style similar to that of Robert Maxwell. Flanked by Benny Goodman and Frankie Trumbauer, Jack's brother Charlie Teagarden blew some of his best trumpet on record. Texas crooner Mr. T sang on two of the three records made that day, handsomely drawling the words to "Stars Fell on Alabama," as if lyricist Frank Perkins had devised them just for him. Years passed. The minute his contract with Whiteman expired, Teagarden resumed making records under his own name for the Brunswick label on April 14, 1939, collaborating with trumpeter Charlie Spivak in leading a 15-piece orchestra that operated in a sort of Dorsey/Goodman/Barnet groove, with lush harmonies emanating from the trombone section. Present in this band were arranger Fred Van Eps, Jr. and saxophonist John Van Eps, sons of legendary early 20th century ragtime banjoist Fred Van Eps and brothers of jazz guitar wizard George Van Eps. The other important participant here was the great Ernie Caceres, heard playing clarinet and tenor sax in addition to his customary baritone. "Persian Rug," which first entered the jazz repertoire back in 1928 as a sort of chamber jazz oddity by Fats Waller and the Louisiana Sugar Babes, here becomes a punchy big-band workout. Teagarden's vocals are invariably warm and delightful, and there are only occasional incursions by conventional big-band singers Jeanie Arnold and Linda Keene. Of the four remaining instrumentals, "Pickin' for Patsy" is a relatively modernistic feature for guitarist Allan Reuss, "Undertow" a soothing nocturne for jazz orchestra, "Blues to the Dole" a laid-back big-band embodiment of Teagarden's personality and most excitingly, a full ensemble arrangement of Willie "The Lion" Smith's masterpiece, "Rippling Waters."
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