Trumpeter / composer Jack Purvis is known not only for his brilliant playing but for his incredibly strange adventures — suicide attempts, thefts, deceptions, impersonations befitting a Baron Munchausen. A good deal of the Purvis saga suggests mental instability or someone with no discernable impulse control: if the woman you are infatuated with plays the harp, what could be wrong with smashing a plate glass window, stealing a harp, asking her for lessons, and then (when rebuffed) smashing the window again to return the harp to its display?
These exploits — colorful reading now, probably deeply puzzling and irritating to all who knew Purvis — are recounted in the very detailed and entertaining booklet by Michael Brooks, part of the definitive Purvis set (three CDs) on the Jazz Oracle label.
Purvis’ recorded performances often show a kind of nervous excitability — hot playing in the extreme, courageous leaping here and there with a quick vibrato, no mountain too high to scale.
So it’s a surprise to once again come across a 1931 California Ramblers recording of the pretty Fats Waller song, CONCENTRATIN’ ON YOU (with funny, sweet lyrics) — recorded on other occasions by Connee Boswell and Mildred Bailey — that has Purvis noted as the trumpet soloist. This generosity is courtesy of the record collector and silent-film scholar “Atticus70” on YouTube:
The probable personnel is Chelsea Quealey, Jack Purvis, Fred van Eps Jr., trumpets; Carl Loeffler, trombone; Bobby Davis, clarinet, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone; Elmer Feldkamp, clarinet, alto, vocal; Joe Gillespie, clarinet, tenor; Adrian Rollini, bass sax when used [and possibly chimes or vibraphone]; Jack Wechsler, violin; Lew Cobey, piano; Noel Kilgen, guitar; Carl Smith, bass; Herb Weil, drums. New York, October 5, 1931.
Could it be that the recordin contractor told Purvis to behave himself and play sweetly, or was Jack deeply in one of his romantic infatuations?
Of course, if the trumpet work is by Chelsea Quealey, my theories go to the ocean bottom — but it’s a pretty dance record, no matter who’s playing what.