I spent most of yesterday writing and listening to my favorite Jack Teagarden album, Mis'ry and the Blues (Verve/1961). I love this album for a bunch of reasons. Not only is Teagarden's whiskey-soaked voice nostalgic and patient but his trombone playing is especially sweet, mournful and introspective.
This album is pure, unadulterated Chicago-style jazz from start to finish. Hard times and sweet memories over ice. For some reason I always want to sing along with Tea on this album. It's music of the underdog, of good people down on their luck who keep on trying. Teagarden's playing on this album always touches me.
Along with the great Louis Armstrong, Tea invented the true feeling of this music. And like Louis, Tea was a singular musician who could play and sing effortlessly. It's no coincidence that Teagarden and Louis were pals and recorded often together.
The second track on this album is Basin Street Blues, a jazz classic that Teagarden's first recorded and made famous in 1931. He wrote the lyrics and arrangement in 1929 with Glenn Miller in Miller's apartment. Can you imagine those those 'bones sounding off?
You can hear 30 years of playing in every one of Tea's warm notes. To me, his music always sounds like beer and laughter and the occasional broken glass or bottle. The sidemen on this album are little known to mainstream jazz, but they can play.
Here's an excerpt from Charles Edward Smith's essay on Tea in Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff's book, The Jazz Makers (1958):
"What distinguished Jack Teagarden in jazz (apart from his scat-singing and vocals) was not that he was the first to employ the trombone creatively in solos, but that he did this in an easy swing with very blue intonation, in a panther style, lazy and lightning quick. He played with remarkable facility and with no unintentional smearing of notes. His first loaylty was to hot intonation and phrasing and to the basic, beat-contending rhythm of jazz."
One of the album's many high points is I Don't Want to Miss Mississippi. The song tells you everything you need to know about Chicago jazz of the 1930s. It will linger with you for a long, long time. Unlike many jazz musicians, Tea actually listened to what he was singing and playing. Jazz always sounds better that way. Tea was an honest artist.
Wax tracks: Perhaps my favorite track on this album is It's All in Your Mind. The arrangement is particularly honey-toned. I highly recommend owning this entire album or downloading it. Every track satisfies, and you won't be disappointed. There's even a track with just trumpeter Don Goldie playing a soaring Afternoon in August.
Wax clips: There are a bunch of great Teagarden clips on the web. But my favorite is Stars Fell on Alabama. Tea is so pretty and pure. Look at him sing without worrying about a thing. Pour yourself a shot and listen to the man.