Jack Pettis

Jack Pettis was a pre-swing jazz pioneer. He disappeared from the music scene in 1940, and it became a mystery why he never heard from again. Many jazz enthusiasts did extensive research and have not been able to find out much about his life after his death. Pettis was a solid, if not distinctive, player throughout his short career. As a teenager, he was self-taught to play the C-melody Saxophone. He recorded with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings (1922-1923) and worked in Chicago with Elmer Schoebel, Paul Mares, and became a member. Pettis was a member of Ben Bernie’s Orchestra in 1924. The following year, he performed a solo on a short sound film (included on the video At the Jazz Band Ball). This clip shows Bernie’s band playing Sweet Georgia Brown. He holds the distinction of being the first jazz soloist to be captured on film. Pettis started recording as a leader in 1926. He recorded extensively over the next two decades with his own groups and with Bernie, Bernie’s Whoopee Makers and Irving Mills Hotsy Totsy Gang. Pettis had several sidemen who recorded various selections with him, including Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang, Dick McDonough and Spencer Clark, Tommy Dorsey as well as Jack Teagarden, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. Many of his catchy tunes were also written or co-written by him, including “St. Louis Shuffle”, “Freshman Hop,” and “Sweetest Melody.” After 1930 Jack Pettis made only one more recording appearance (a 1937 date that he led that resulted “Hawaiian Heat Wave” and “Swing Session In Siberia”). By the ’40s, however, he was gone, seemingly lost forever. All of his sessions as a leader, except for the 1937 date, were reissued along with other performances. Kings Cross double-CD reissued the recordings. Allmusic

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