JACK TEAGARDEN’S BIG EIGHT!
PEE WEE RUSSELL’S RHYTHMAKERS
Jazz Archives #100(12”)
Jack Teagarden’s Big Eight (Side 1):
Rex Stewart (cnt) Teagarden (tb)(and vocal on St. James Infirmary) Barney Bigard (cl) Ben Webster (ts) Billy Kyle (p) Brick Fleagle (g) Billy Taylor (b) Dave Tough (drs) New York; December 15, 1940
Pee Wee Russell’s Rhythmakers (Side 2):
Max Kaminsky (tp) Dicky Wells (tb) Russell (cl) al Gold (ts) James P. Johnson (p) Freddie Green (g) Wellman Braud 9b) Zutty Singleton (drs)(and vocal on Zutty’s Hootie Blues)
New York; August 31, 1938, #5 and 6 are played by Russell, singleton and Johnson only; same date.
Shine (3:52) (Dabney – Mack – Brown)
St. James Infirmary (4:11) (traditional)
The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise (4:05) (Lockhart – Seitz)
Big Eight Blues (4:12) (Brick Fleagle)
Pee Wee Russell:
Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home (2:24) (Warfield - Williams)
Dinah (2:36) (Akst – Lewis – Young)
Zutty’s Hootie Blues (2:59) (Zutty Singleton)
There’ll Be Some Changes Made (2:57) (Overstreet – Higgins)
I Found a New Baby (2:15) (Palmer – Williams)
Everybody Loves My Baby (trio) (2:21) (Palmer – Williams)
Weldon John Teagarden and Charles Ellsworth Russell may sound like names more suitable for bank presidents or Madison Avenue ad men tan for jazz musicians, but as JACK TEAGARDEN and PEEWEE RUSSELL there is no reason for anyone to have any trouble at all in identifying two of the most respected and durable (and deservedly so) jazz talents of all time.
Both men originally came out of someplace South (Big Tea was born deep in Texas in 1905, Peewee in St. Louis in ’06) and both made their marks in the late ‘20s and thereafter in such Northern strongholds of jazz as Chicago and New York, and eventually just about everywhere else. There are other important points of similarity between the two: both have resolutely resisted attempts to categorize them into any single jazz “school.” Peewee was for a very long time closely associated with the Eddie Condon-Chicago-Dixieland order of things, but it was always evident that his jazz message was somehow deeper, more blues-imbued and most probably more lastingly valid than most of his colleagues in that happy-go-lucky conclave. Teagarden, whose love of the blues has always been both vocally and instrumentally very much in evidence, gained much from a close early friendship with Fletcher Henderson’s great trombonist, Jimmy Harrison. Jack has run the gamut of associations (and this really is a gamut) from Paul Whiteman to Louis Armstrong, but has always remained primarily himself; and exceptionally and infectiously warm and warm-sounding jazzman.
Both men are represented here by selections made for the long-defunct H.R.S. label, which produced some very remarkable small-band jazz in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s. The 1940 “Big Eight” numbers, which take advantage of being 12-inch singles and therefore longer than average for their day, put Teagarden in the company of what were then three of the most notable members of Duke Ellington’s band: Ben Webster, Barney Bigard, and Rex Stewart; plus pianist Billy Kyle (then a part of John Kirby’s swinging small unit) and that most formidable and adaptable drummer, Davey Tough, whose life in jazz was to span the considerable area between the original Chicagoans of the Austin High Gang and the progressive big-band music of Woody Herman’s first Hers. (On bass is the veteran Billy Taylor, not to be confused with the modern pianist of the same name.)
Despite this seemingly drastic stylistic mixture, which was pretty standard procedure in its day, the Big Eight takes on largely the musical characteristics of its leader, making this a fundamentally blues-y but joyously rocking set. The leader pretty much sets the tone on the other side of the LP, too. Here Russell’s wry, “dirty” clarinet has the assistance of Max Kaminsky, one of the most incisive and firmly driving of all Dixieland-type trumpets, and James P. Johnson, that greatest of all Harlem stride pianists, who in this period often lent his lifting presence to such dates. Also on hand is that witty and vastly under-rated trombonist, Dicky Wells, who like Teagarden owed much to Jimmy Harrison’s influence, and who at this time was just beginning a long term with Count Basie’s band. There is also that finest of rhythm guitarists, Basie’s constant mainstay, Freddie Green; with Wellman Braud on bass and the powerful drumming of Zutty Singleton, both New Orleans-raised veterans.
On both sides the repertoire is mostly a matter of Dixieland standards and blues. But in each instance the performance of each of the two unclassifiable leaders, operating happily and at something like his very best with these suitably varied and eclectic lineups lifts the music to swinging and much more than satisfying heights.
Notes by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover designed by KEN DEARDOFF
Remastered, 1960, by JACK MATTHEWS (components Corp.) on a HYDROFEED lathe
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