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Jack Teagarden: The Complete Capitol Fifties Sessions

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In Mosaic’s comprehensive collection of Jack Teagarden’s 1955-1958 Capitol recordings we find a legendary musician at the peak of his artistic powers, no longer the innovator he had been in his youth, but one whose every solo rings with an assured mastery born of decades of top quality playing. In late 1951, upon completing a four-year hitch with Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars, Teagarden formed the first of several combos he was to lead until his death in 1964. But, with one exception, these are not the groups he used for his dates on Capitol. For purposes of musical continuity, Mosaic has deviated somewhat from its customary adherence to chronology and instead has sequenced the sessions according to instrumentation and intention. Thus, the first two discs cover the small band recordings originally issued under the album titles of Coast Concert, Jazz Ultimate and Big T’s Dixieland Band, while the two remaining discs umbrella the studio band showcase albums, This Is Teagarden, Swing Low, Sweet Spiritual and Shades Of Night, which by virtue of their thematic programs and larger instrumentations fall into a different category than the foregoing group.

Although there is much to be said for the quality of performance on the orchestral sessions, the best all-out jazz playing is unquestionably on the first two all-star combo dates. Under Bobby Hackett’s leadership, Coast Concert was recorded by an eight-piece band composed of such widely experienced Hollywood-based jazzmen as clarinetist Matty Matlock, drummer Nick Fatool and veteran trombonist Abe Lincoln, a skilled technician whose brash exuberance best serves to underline Teagarden’s superior taste, tone and ideas. Except for two ballads, “New Orleans” and “I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plans,” the playlist consists exclusively of dependable 1920s jam warhorses, all of which swing in time-honored fashion. A notable inclusion from this October 1955 session is the previously unissued “St. James Infirmary,” one of Tea’s best known set pieces.

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