From Turners Station to a jazz Grammy

The Baltimore Sun

Attention must be paid: A kid from Turners Station had a hand (and his Yamaha YBL-613H) in a Grammy last week. Thanks to Dwight Weems, the longtime and still-frisky front man for one of Baltimore's most popular party bands, Gazze, for pointing out the name of Douglas Purviance (Purr-vy-ance) in the music awards - specifically, in Category No. 49, Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.

The award went to Vanguard Jazz Orchestra; Purviance plays bass trombone (the Yamaha YBL-613H, in fact) with the band, and he's the orchestra's business manager. Purviance and Vanguard took the Category 49 Grammy for Monday Night Live at the Village Vanguard, from Planet Arts Recordings.

"This kind of music typically gets buried in the Grammys on television," says Weems, "but they can't bury the musical art form that [Purviance and Vanguard] strive to keep alive."

Purviance grew up with Weems in Turners Station, a historically black section of southeastern Baltimore County near Sparrows Point. They were founding members of Gazze. The band has been around since 1971, performing at school dances and proms and festivals and lots and lots of weddings, maybe 800 by now. It has always had a brassy, Chicago-style sound. Purviance helped get that started.

"He graduated from Dundalk Senior High School in 1970 and then Towson State University as a music major," Weems tells me. "He is an accomplished musician who plays major Broadway shows [he was senior bass trombonist in the orchestra for Cats through its entire 18-year run] as well as being a member of Vanguard."

Purviance got his start with the Stan Kenton Orchestra in the mid-1970s. He's been a New York guy ever since.

"Every year, kids across America take music lessons," Weems says. "This is a story of one such kid. Every kid and his parent who has lugged an instrument case back and forth to school could easily relate to Doug. As I said to him the other day, 'It's a long way from Turners Station to the Grammys!' "

Helping job-seekers

The late, great Heywood Broun, who wrote a newspaper column during the height of the Great Depression, started a Give-A-Job campaign in the New York Telegram in 1930. "There can be no question that unemployment is acute and that millions are in want," Broun wrote. "Something should be done, and it should be done now. President Hoover's remedy seems to be a set of promises. Thus ... it is up to us of the middle class to stir ourselves."

And so began Broun's crusade to connect the unemployed with those who could provide even a part-time "job till June."

When the first stack of mail arrived, Broun and a secretary plucked through it and found the ratio of want-a-jobs to give-a-jobs at 100-to-1, according to a 60-year-old biography by Dale Kramer. Broun gave one person a job, then crusaded for others to follow his example, if they could. He set up a separate office to run the campaign and spoke about it on his New York City radio show.

"Soon more than a hundred persons were being placed in jobs every week," according to Kramer's biography. "Yet Broun was profoundly discouraged. All the jobs he found in a week were offset by the increase in a single day at one of the city's bigger bread lines."

Still, one has to admire Broun for his efforts to go beyond mere words in print or on radio. He raised money for the effort, including some from his own pocket, and he dared others to take action.

I thought of Broun when Paula Smith contacted me the other day for a little advice on how to reach out to those who've recently lost a job. Smith really didn't need my help. She had a good idea already.

Though not on the scale of Broun's undertaking, it certainly is a generosity to be admired - one person's effort to address the problem of growing unemployment.

Smith owns and operates Curry Printing and Copy Center in Baltimore, and she has decided to offer to give people looking for work 10 free, nicely printed copies of their resume and 10 free blank sheets of matching paper for cover letters. "I want to try and help people put their best foot forward," she says. "This would be at my new Copy Cat location at 2229 N. Charles St. I even got my paper supplier to donate the paper, and a recycled stock no less. Adam Parsons, from Lindenmeyr Munroe in Odenton is going to donate it to us. The staff at Copy Cat is really jazzed and excited about helping out!" If you can use this service, call 410-889-4800.

Call on Nick

I've been thinking about Elijah Cummings' pitch to Alex Rodriguez that A-Fraud come to Maryland this spring to take part in the Powered By Me! anti-steroids conference for kids in Timonium. I've got a better idea for the congressman: Invite a professional baseball player who has done just fine in the era of banned steroids, someone who has presumably managed to perform well without juicing, someone who came up to the show after Major League Baseball banned and started testing for steroids. Let's try the Orioles' Nick Markakis, for instance. You could start there, congressman. Maybe kids need to hear from someone who can boast of making it on his own - and earning on average about $11 million a year now - without cheating.

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