“This is a nine piece powerhouse with an outstanding jazz book. The group is tight, swings as an ensemble, and features fine solo performances by all.”
– Ted Belastock, Quarter Notes Magazine
“It is good to know that there are groups like Paul Combs’ Pocket Big Band out in the trenches.”
– Jack Bowers, Jazz Improv Magazine
“I can highly recommend Paul and his band. . . you should consider having them to your event – you will be glad you did!”
– Andrew Bowers, Chair, Littleton Cultural Council (click to read full text)
Listen to the band at Audio/Video
On November 25, 2001, we held the first rehearsal of the Pocket Big Band, a 9-piece enesmble that has many of the orchestrational possibilities of a big band but still has some of the intimacy of a small combo. The instrumentation is alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, two trumpets, trombone, piano, bass and drums. The stated objectives of this band were, in no particular order, to develop an ensemble that explores ensemble jazz from the forties onward to the present; to provide all of us, and our friends with a fairly large ensemble to write for, so we can have the satisfaction of hearing what we have written; and to provide the participants with a means for growth as musicians.
In November, 2002 the Pocket Big Band started playing regularly at the Chit-Chat Lounge, 103 Washington St., Haverhill, MA 978-374-9710, on Sundays. at first we played there alomst every Sunday, but as we started to atract an audience for jazz, we started to share the stage with other jazz groups, and Jazz At Chit Chat was born. Now in its 5th year, Jazz At Chit Chat presents the Pocket Big Band on alternate Sundays, ad presents other bands based in the Lower Merrimack Valley, such as: the Special Edidion Big Band, Mike Cesati and Friends, the Ken Mamayek Dectet and the Swing X-Press, among others. The complete line up can be found at the Schedule. Jazz At Chit Chat runsfrom 6:00 to 10:00 PM, (7:00 to 11:00 during football season) and there is no cover. The band has also played at the Acton Jazz Cafe,the Amazing Things Arts Center, the Press Room, and Sally O’Briens, among other venues.
In the beginning of 2003, we recorded Live At Chit Chat, Sea Breeze SB-3073, in three sessions at the Chit Chat Lounge, with Gary Schena enginering. The CD is avaiable directly form Sea Breeze Jazz, as well as from most of most Internet music stores. After its release, ‘Live At Chit Chat’ was heard nation-wide on some 50 different radio stations. We will be rebuilding this site soon, and sample MP3s from the CD should be available by fall of 2007.
As the band progressed into its third year, we added vocal charts to the book. I have always felt that singing reaches some people that strictly instrumental music does not, and there are songs that I wanted to arrange that are greatly enhanced by the inclusion of the lyric. Because of the extra complications involved, we do not include a singer in all of our performances, but we do try to have a vocalist on hand for our high profile concerts and club dates. Our first singer was Tyra Penn, and at first the vocal book was cobbled together out of some adapted stock charts. Gradually, new charts were added specifically for Tyra. Due to her increasingly busy schedule with other bands and her responsibilities at WICN-FM in Worcester, MA, Tyra turned the vocal chair over to Lydia Fortune, who is not only an excellent jazz singer, but a song writer as well, and we started to develop new material for her, including arrangements of her own compositions. Sadly, due to ill health, Lydia had to leave the band in 2010, and the band is looking for a new singer to work with. We are happy to report that Lydia has recovered, but not enough to sing with the force required to work with a big band.
After more than ten years the Pocket Big Band is going stronger than ever. Five of the original members are still with the core of the band, and the other four have remained in the pool of substitute players who are so important in keeping the band viable. Starting with just a handful of charts, the band’s repertoire has grown to over 100 arrangements, with new pieces added every couple of months. So far the book includes arrangements by Tadd Dameron (yes, actual Dameron arrangements), as well as my arrangements of previously unknown Dameron compositions. The book also features work by Fred Forney, Dan Higgins, Tom Kubis, Ken Mamayek, Bob Meyer, Sammy Nestico, Lennie Niehaus, Bob Pilkington, Willie Smith (who wrote for Joe Lovano’s Grammy Winning “52nd St. Dreams ” CD), Nils Wacklen, Clifford Weeks, and Ernest Wiehe. As stated, the book keeps growing all the time and we welcome offers from any arrangers who would like to write for this size band.