The brilliant clarinetist and saxophonist Frank Teschemacher died in 1932 — and today, March 13, we celebrate his birth.  Ordinarily I don’t indulge in too much of “Z would have been 107 today,” because there are living musicians and living music to celebrate . . . but for Tesch, I can’t help but break my own rule.

Serious, high-strung, educated . . . Tesch seems an unlikely explorer, but he was obviously looking for new sounds: his solos leap at the listener with raw energy, a kind of divine fearlessness.  Here he is with Eddie Condon, Joe Sullivan, and Gene Krupa, on July 28, 1928, for OH, BABY!

And even though the online world is full of scraps and debris, wonderful enterprises emerge — who would have thought of a blog entirely devoted to Tesch, with photos I had never seen?  But here it is: teschology

Wild Bill Davison’s plaint — after Tesch had died in an auto accident in Bill’s car — “Where are we going to get another sax player like Tesch?” (or words to that effect) has, I think, been misread as coldness . . . but the question has never been satisfactorily answered.  And it raises a larger question.  I miss Tesch, although I was born well after his death, and he lived — by the usual measures — far too short a life.  But I wonder: did he accomplish all that he was meant to do in those years?  Who can tell?  And I think of a line from Yeats’ elegy for Major Robert Gregory, “What made us dream that he could comb grey hair?”

Gone, gone, gone.


  1. Thank you for honoring one of the hottest clarinetists in the history of Jazz. AND–thanks for the link to “Teschology!!!”

  2. Many years ago, in, I think, the mid eighties, I was fortunate enough to play & tour with Wild Bill a fair amount. As is well documented, he was a wonderful character and, to put it mildly, ‘enjoyed a small sherry before lunch’ which often allowed us in the band bus with him to hear amazing tales of his long and varied career. The only time I ever recall him never willing to discuss his past was the occasion of the auto accident. He said, simply, that it still, all those years later, filled him with guilt and sorrow – and yes, he did use the word guilt. He would never talk about the incident in any detail though. One story he did tell of that era however, was how when touring in the south, near the Mexican border the guys in the band would often cross the border, marry a Mexican girl, bring them over the border and promptly divorce them! I can honestly say he is probably the only man I have ever spoken to who could honestly not recall how many times he’d been married! They used to make a few dollars from every bride which supplemented their income!

  3. I’ve been following this blog for some time now and, wow, I am FLATTERED that you would link to my humble little Tesch blog. I received your message on my Tumblr and it really made my day. Thanks so much for the kind words and the encouragement — it means so much!

  4. Making sure that deserving singular people don’t get erased is noble work, and you are doing it! Thank you, Missy! And may your happiness increase.

  5. Michael, Thank you so much for posting. Teschmacher, when i first started out playing clarinet, the three clarinetist i listened too the most were Benny, Pee Wee and Tesch. All Hot clarinetist. of that period. Not sure if a true story , but remember reading somewhere or being told that when Tesch was playing somewhere, Benny would come unanounced and hide behind something so he could see and hear Tesch. in person.

  6. I just got my computer improved from dial up to DSL and now I can see and hear the Videos. God what I have been missing I had no idea how good all of this was. The Tesch thing is unbelievable and ” Missy ” deserves the highest possible praise . The photos are fabulous and combined with the music the entire era ” COMES ALIVE “. Michael thanks
    so much for your great work.
    Robert Matthews

  7. Glad you’ll be able to enjoy the videos! Welcome aboard or welcome back or welcome to a high-class cabin on the S.S.JAZZ LIVES!

  8. Thanks MS for this marvelous blast from the past. I agree with everyone commenting above. (“If I may”) … It has been decades since hearing this piece. I say piece rather than “recording” because to my ear (now) it’s like a mini-symphony… shifting gears as often as it does… and with Krupa driving like that. There is such a driving stacatto everywhere… and yet this funky juxtaposition of synco going on… whew… what a study… what a lift! Thanks again, MSJL! — m

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