Live At Chit Chat

Thanks for a little miracle

We started rehearsing the Pocket Big Band sometime in November of 2001. In my work on a book on Tadd Dameron I had collected many of his arrangements and wanted to have a band that could play, if only in smaller group orchestrations, as much of this as possible. The first piece in our book is a previously unknown piece that Dameron wrote for Mary Lou Williams in 1942, and we were the first people to ever play it since, for various reasons, it had remained unplayed in Williamsí collection of papers from the time Dameron gave it to her almost sixty years earlier. I had also had a desire to form such a band that went back to my youth, and by 2001 I had thought it would never happen. The problem was finding rehearsal space, and that was solved by our drummer Paul Marcantonio and his wife Valerie who generously made their basement, where Valerie teaches dance, available for our rehearsals. Our pianist Don Hemwall also had us squeeze into his teaching studio on several occasions.

The first year or so required a great deal of faith and perseverance, and it is well worth noting that seven of the original members of the band are on this recording and still with the group at the time of this writing. We had managed to play for the public only three times in the first year and were getting a bit discouraged. Enter Gary Schina and the Chit Chat Lounge. Gary and I have a friendship that goes back over thirty years. In the early 1970s I played at the Chit Chat with a variety of bands, and we have kept in touch over the years since. Gary, a musician himself, is one of the most positive and supportive people I know, and when I told him the Pocket Big Band was looking for a venue in which we could ìset up shopî on a weekly basis he immediately offered us the stage on Sundays. We started in January of 2003 and by the time this recording is released we will be entering our third season at the Chit Chat.

The Chit Chat Lounge is also wired for location recording and Gary has developed a deft hand with mic placement for drums as well as mastery of his, shall we say, mystical recording gear. You will hear the results on this cd. We were now in position to attempt this project in a comfortable environment, and in the company of our partisans and others. This brings me to the first batch of thank-yous that are due. Over the time we have been at the Chit Chat we have been blessed with a somewhat small but enthusiastic steady audience. These are folks check in with us regularly, some of them almost every week. It is the applause and voices of these lovely people, along with other friends, old and new, that you hear on these tracks. I have always felt that the audience is a necessary part of the process of music making and we have one of the very best audiences a band could ask for.

We have also had the support of a community of musicians who have substituted for one or another of us when needed and this has allowed us to keep our steady presence at the Chit Chat. Trumpeters Gerry Barrett, Scott Beckman, Giorgio Distante, and Hugh Nestor; trombonists Daren Cook, Garo Saraydarian, Bill Saulnier, Taka Sugita and Cliff Weeks; saxophonists Sean Berry, Alan Chase, John Franzosa, Kathleen Howland, Linda Little, Ken Mamayek, Frank Rull, Jason Samiagio, Scott Tringali and Paul Vignoli; pianists Jacques Carnier, Ed Chenowith, Alan Rowe, Sean Sweeney, Mike Valdez, Jim Zaroulis and, when no suitable pianist could be found, guitarist Mark Michaels. While Paul Marcantonio is our regular drummer, he is also a family man with many responsibilities so he is backed up by our excelent drum team of Rick Hansen, Tony Hyde, Renato Malavasi, Steve Rose and the mighty Stanley C. Swann III. Because qualified basists, who can not only read but solo, are in great demand the pocket big band does not have a regular bassist but a pool of players as well as some good souls who have come to our rescue when no one in the pool was available. These include Gary Bergin, Paul Chase , Chuck Gabriel, Herman Hampton, Manuel Kaufmann, Roger Kimball, Dave Lablue, Greg Loughman, Tracie Marsh, Tony Sumbury, Nate Therrien, Frank Zarba. I hope I have not left anyone out, but if I have please forgive me.

Finally, there are my heart felt thanks for those who have contributed arrangements to our book solely on the basis of friendship and a commitment to good music: Bob Pilkington, Scott Tringali, Nils Wacklen and our patron saint, Cliff Weeks. Many, many thanks to all who have supported the little miracle that is the Pocket Big Band.


Paul Combs, Alto & Soprano Saxes, Flute; Doug Leaffer, Tenor Sax; Jim Cameron, Baritone Sax; Bob Coviello and Jim Pastore, Trumpet/Flugelhorn; Wayne Mogel, Trombone; Don Hemwall, Piano; Mark Geheret; Paul Marcantonio, Drums.

Recording Engineer: Gary Schena; Mix Engineer: Marty Walsh at the Shed; Mastering Engineer: Bob Kroeger; Design: Megan Verdugo; Cover Photography: Tony Natale; Inside Photography: Mike Ariel.

Recorded live at the Chit Chat Lounge, 103 Washington St., Haverhill, MA, January 11, February 1 and 22, 2004. Produced by BoMuse Transcriptions for Sea Breeze Records, All arrangements available from Otter Distributors,

1. Red Rock - Dan Higgins 6:40
2. Brazil - Fred Forney 6:00
3. Take 3 - Willie Smith 5:35
4. Summer Song - Dan Higgins 6:45
5. Moscow Beat Blues - Bob Pilkington 6:50
6. No Fooliní - Cliff Weeks 5:35
7. Thrice As Nice - Dan Higgins 7:45
8. Reds - Fred Forney 5:40
9. One For Ken - Paul Combs 4:35
10. Tubarao - Trad. Cape Verde, arr. Paul Combs 5:10
11. Lady "C" Good - Tom Kubis 6:00