Tag Archives: Tommy Felline

“F’R INSTANCE”: DANCE WITH JACK PURVIS, SMITH BALLEW, and PAULETTE GODDARD

I know it’s an unlikely trio.  But permit me and “Atticus70” some small poetic license.  His YouTube channel — intoxicating in so many ways — is Atticus70.

These two 78 sides, lovingly restored, present more music by trumpeter Jack Purvis and his expert colleagues: Purvis, t / Bobby Davis, Pete Pumiglio, cl, as;  Sam Ruby, ts;  probably Sid Harris, Joe LaFaro, Al Duffy, vn; Jack Russin, p; Tommy Felline, g;  Ward Lay, sb; Stan King, d; Smith Ballew and two others, v. New York, June 12, 1930.

I can’t decide whether F’R INSTANCE is a frail example of the “conditional love song”: IF I were to say these words, how would you take them — passionate love songs for timid wooers — or if it has its own charm. It does seem to borrow so much from the Paul Denniker – Andy Razaf S’POSIN, doesn’t it?

About Paulette Goddard I will only say that we see why Chaplin fell for her, and that those photos (continued below) show that her beauty shone through no matter what the setting.

Here is the “hotter” side — giving Purvis more space — I LOVE YOU SO MUCH:

A few more words about Purvis.  Were you to take all the stories about him to heart, he seems a truly unbalanced figure: someone without the internal signal to say, “That’s a bad idea,” or “That’s wrong: leave it alone!”  Liar, kleptomaniac, someone unwilling to distinguish between your property and his.  Purvis as a larger-than-life mythic figure seems outlandishly charming now precisely because we are far away from him; there is no chance to Jack will rise from the grave to swindle us at the supermarket.  But these two 78 sides show us a player perfectly in command of his instrument, absolutely masterful in the sound, attack, and tonality he gets — one couldn’t be a madman, out of control, in the recording studios . . . and it’s clear that Purvis is more than the pathological personality he’s been depicted as — someone able to convey great sweetness through those unforgiving coils of brass.  Listen closely again to the winsome, pleading sound he gets from his trumpet: it’s a marvel.

For those who want to hear more of Jack and read about his exploits, this is the only place: a masterpiece of research and music: the Jazz Oracle three-disc set devoted to him: http://www.jazzoracle.com/

Another postscript: ten years ago I would have been somewhat impatient with the general sweet-band aura of both of these sides. I would have looked at my watch, waiting for the moment when the Hot Man blasted his way out of the sweetness for eight or sixteen bars.  I haven’t changed so radically as to start an Eddy Duchin collection, but it takes just as much integrity and control to make pretty sounds as it does hot ones.  In an interview with Ruby Braff, the interviewer spoke slightingly of the least-jazzlike band he could think of, which happened to be Sammy Kaye.  Ruby, characteristically, spoke his mind: “If I had Sammy Kaye here I would kiss him.  You had to be a MUSICIAN to play in one of those bands!”  Everyone on the sides above, including Smith Ballew, was a MUSICIAN — and is there higher praise?

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RED NICHOLS MEETS THE CHICAGOANS, 1929

I stumbled on this Red Nichols Brunswick record from 1929 on YouTube while searching for Red McKenzie vocals — a rewarding quest, except I am oddly discomposed by the idea of McKenzie providing part of the soundtrack for something (a computer simulation / game?) called Bioshock.  Well, anything that lets people hear him sing THE TROUBLE WITH ME IS YOU shouldn’t be scoffed at.

Then I encountered this recording — charitably posted by “Atticus70” and when I looked closer, I saw it wasn’t the Gershwin WHO CARES? but a more self-pitying pop song by Yellen and Ager.

But look and listen to the personnel: all those “Chicagoan” ruffians who took their Nichols paychecks as long as he would put up with their (presumably) hard-drinking disdain for things like clean clothes and punctuality.

The band is Red Nichols, Mannie Klein, Tommy Thunen, trumpets;  Glenn Miller, cornet, trombone;  Jack Teagarden, ? Herb Taylor, trombones;  Pee Wee Russell, clarinet;  Bud Freeman, tenor sax;  Joe Sullivan, piano;  Tommy Felline, banjo;  Art Miller, bass;  Dave Tough, drums;  Red McKenzie, vocal.

New York, June 12, 1929: for all its melancholy, this is pre-Crash pop music.

And the sounds of Teagarden, Russell, Sullivan, and Tough are elixirs.  Condon isn’t there, but perhaps Nichols found him to be the primary ringleader; Tommy Felline (or is it Fellini?) was no doubt much more tractable.  And McKenzie croons so beautifully, making even the odd lyrics work reasonably well.

But here’s the music!

WE CARE!  CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO SHOW THE MUSICIANS THAT WE DO.

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