Weldon Leo "Jack" Teagarden (August 20, 1905 – January 15, 1964), known as "Big T" and "The Swingin' Gate", was a jazz trombonist, bandleader, composer, and vocalist, regarded as the "Father of Jazz Trombone". Born in Vernon, Texas, his brothers Charlie and Clois "Cub" and his sister Norma also became noted professional musicians. Teagarden's father was an amateur brass band trumpeter and started young Jack on baritone horn; by age seven he had switched to trombone. He first heard jazz music played by the Louisiana Five and decided to play in the new style. Teagarden's trombone style was largely self-taught, and he developed many unusual alternative positions and novel special effects on the instrument. He is usually considered the most innovative jazz trombone stylist of the pre-bebop era, and did much to expand the role of the instrument beyond the old tailgate style role of the early New Orleans brass bands. Chief among his contributions to the language of jazz trombonists was his ability to interject the blues or merely a "blue feeling" into virtually any piece of music. By 1920 Teagarden was playing professionally in San Antonio, including with the band of pianist Peck Kelley. In the mid 1920s he started traveling widely around the United States in a quick succession of different bands. In 1927, he went to New York City where he worked with several bands. By 1928 he played for the Ben Pollack band. Within a year of the commencement of his recording career, he became a regular vocalist, first doing blues material ("Beale Street Blues", for example), and later doing popular songs. He is often mentioned as one of the best white male jazz vocalists of the era; his singing style is quite like his trombone playing, in terms of improvisation (in the same way that Louis Armstrong sang quite like he played trumpet). His singing is best remembered for duets with Louis Armstrong and Johnny Mercer. In the late 1920s he recorded with such notable bandleaders and sidemen as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols, Jimmy McPartland, Mezz Mezzrow, Glenn Miller, and Eddie Condon. Glenn Miller and Teagarden collaborated to provide lyrics and a verse to Spencer Williams' Basin Street Blues, which in that amended form became one of the numbers that Teagarden played until the end of his days. In the early 1930s Teagarden was based in Chicago, for some time playing with the band of Wingy Manone. He played at the Century of Progress exposition in Chicago. Teagarden sought financial security during the Great Depression and signed an exclusive contract to play for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra from 1933 through 1938. The contract with Whiteman's band provided him with financial security but prevented him from playing an active part in the musical advances of the mid-thirties swing era. In 1946 Teagarden joined Louis Armstrong's All Stars. Armstrong and Teagarden's work together shows a wonderful rapport, in particular their duet on "Rockin' Chair". In late 1951 Teagarden left to again lead his own band, then co-led a band with Earl Hines, then again with a group under his own name with whom he toured Japan in 1958 and 1959. Teagarden was the featured performer at the Newport Jazz Festival of 1957. Saturday Review wrote in 1964 that he "walked with artistic dignity all his life," and the same year Newsweek praised his "mature approach to trombone jazz."
A treasure of outstanding jazz was recorded for the U.S. Government during World War II and distributed throughout the world on V-Discs but the single session that stands out is the first one on this record, issued complete and in superb fidelity for the first time. The session began at midnight, December 7, 1944 and ended three hours later. On all but two tracks, Jack Teagarden is not only featured, but turns in some of the most inspired playing of his long career. Louis Armstrong, a surprise visitor to the session was in top form also. This was one of the few opportunities Louis had in more than a decade to record with this kind of group. Here we have a bunch of fine musicians, all performing at the peak of their powers. Shortly after the December 1944 session, Metronome editor George Simon arranged a second midnight V-Disc session; this time at the Vanderbilt Theatre on West 58th St. in New York. The quality of both the music and the sound on these two sessions should please all collectors acquiring this outstanding CD.