Editor, Webmaster:  Phil Cartwright       Editor@earlyjas.org
In Tune -- by Eric Seddon
Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning for
Jazz Advancement and Socialization
Frank Teschemacher *
Jazz Me Blues * 1927-1930
 Frank Teschemacher (1906-1932) was the central figure of the famed 'Austin
High Gang'  whose membership and influence extended through the 1920s to such
players as Bud Freeman, Jimmy McPartland, Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman,
Dave Tough, and Jess Stacy.   

Tesch was remembered by Benny Goodman as "a fine musician and perhaps the
most inventive it has been my privilege to hear." Gunther Schuller called him "the
Ornette Coleman of the twenties, a lone original who, killed in an auto accident on
leap-year day in 1932 at age twenty-five, never had the chance to fully develop his
curious art" (The Swing Era, 1989).

Artie Shaw remembered a session with Tesch at the Grand Terrace Ballroom in
Chicago one night in 1930:
He...had this odd style of playing (...). Even while he'd be reaching out for
something in his deliberately fumbling way, some phrase you couldn't quite see the
beginning or end of (or for that matter, the reason for in the first place), there was
an assurance about everything he did that made you see that he himself knew
where he was going all the time; and by the time he got there you began to see it
yourself, for in its own grotesque way it made a kind of musical sense, but
something extremely personal and intimate to himself… [ The Trouble with
Cinderella, pp198-199]   

It can be difficult to find recordings of Tesch--one of the only compilations
available these days is a 2011 CD with 26 tracks, from Retrospective Records in
the UK. Though not as comprehensive as some of the earlier LP sets, this CD is
an excellent collection of recordings from 1927-30, featuring Tesch's work in
groups such as the Chicago Rhythm Kings, Wingy Manone and his Club Royale
Orchestra, and even playing "Jazz Me Blues" under his own name. Also featured
on these cuts are some early performances of Gene Krupa, Eddie Condon,
Muggsy Spanier, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Jack Teagarden, and others.

For those who have heard a wide variety of jazz clarinet recordings, the legendary
wildness and roughness of Teschmacher's style might seem to have been
exaggerated a bit by history--perhaps as much as Benny's "refinement" of sound
has been exaggerated (the two seem to have been treated at times as poles of jazz
clarinetistry, in a way that does neither of them justice). My dominant first
impression on hearing Tesch was not how contrasting he was to Goodman, but
how similar Tesch's altissimo* approach was to Benny's mature, 1930s style.
More than any other clarinetist before him, Tesch had a clear, strong, commanding
altissimo with tongue attacks that jumped. To my ear, Benny's altissimo
articulation resembles Tesch's more than Roppolo, Noone, Dodds, Lewis, or any
other jazz clarinetist of the era. Likewise, the astonishing solo formulations of
Tesch seem less shocking than they must have during the pre-swing era.

Having granted these things, this CD is an important document of a trailblazing
jazz clarinetist, who like Stan Hasselgård a generation later, died tragically in a car
accident before his full artistic stature could be realized. His playing gives us a
better picture of the clarinet milieu of the 1920s, particularly the supremely
important Chicago scene that produced Goodman.

*  Altissimo -- (Italian for very high) is the uppermost register on woodwind