Personalities | Jack Teagarden | Thirties | Jazz & Blues

(Trombone, vocals, 1905–64)

Arguably the greatest trombonist in jazz history, Jack Teagarden might have been the dominant player of the 1930s. He made his reputation in the late 1920s with Ben Pollack and Red Nichols, but a lack of ambition and desire for security led him to decline the invitation of an obscure clarinetist launching a new band and choose instead a five-year contract with Paul Whiteman. Within months, Benny Goodman had become destiny’s child and Teagarden was watching from the sidelines.

His soft sound spoke with a rolling fluidity and ease that no one had ever heard in the trombone, and he was also blessed with one of the best white blues voices of all time, effortlessly singing classics such as ‘Basin Street Blues’ in a melodic, laid-back drawl. In 1939 he formed his own big band, then in 1940–45 made some of his finest records with small swing groups. He toured with Louis Armstrong from 1947–51 and played with his own groups thereafter.

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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