HAWK'S DELIGHT - BoMuse Transcriptions 1001, Released 1995: 14 Berkshire Place, Cambridge, MA 02141. For more info, contact: www.paulcombs.com. Hawk's Delight; Over the Rainbow; How Insensitive; Beautiful Love; Barbara; I Love You; Some Day My Prince Will Come; Long Ago (and Far Away); On the Trail; Sonnymoon For Two.

PERSONNEL: Paul Combs, alto, tenor, and baritone saxes; Morris Acevedo or Dean Magraw, guitar; Ken Cook or Vaughn Gibson, piano; Larry Garland, piano on "On the Trail"; Tony Sumbury or Henry Gibson, bass; Mark Burdon or Tommy MacDonald, drums.

John Barrett, Jr.

It's a sound you don't expect, especially nowadays. The brushes patter like days gone by, and check that baritone: a tender sway, just a little swagger. It's Lester gone deep, and you don't hear that every day. The backing is breezy, Morris Acevedo chiming with agility. Paul returns with muscle, and a low growl you'll embrace. The delight is not Hawk's alone.

While Paul's sound is expansive, his settings are intimate: this lets him stretch out with plenty of open space. Half the set is piano duets, with a revolving cast: Vaughn Gibson is stately, single notes set against big chords. Paul takes alto up in the soprano range: there's an easy grace to "Over the Rainbow," and a solo you can hug. "Some Day My Prince Will Come" has a similar lilt, but the piano's too loud; it steps on Paul's quiet moments. And "Sonnymoon" gets everything right: Gibson boogies hard, and when Combs starts pushing - we have a winner.

The tracks with Ken Cook take it strong: over lush chords the baritone leaps, light vibrato and a loveable rasp. The best is "Beautiful Love": Cook glistens and frames a solo of finest construction. Then hit the "Trail" with Larry Garland; a moody vamp fades in, deep echoes and a distant horn. Paul has a tenor, and a model: think Ammons' "Canadian Sunset" and you know how this sounds. The center is quiet, as some thought come together; then back to the theme and it's better than ever. (Garland tries dissonance on his solo; nice idea, but it isn't quite there.) The duets are special, and show Combs at his best. With all these voices, he's a group by himself!

The remaining tracks are a mixed bag. "Barbara" seems cluttered: guitar and piano collide, and Paul isn't strong. The converse on "Insensitive" with a nice airy feel. (No piano here, which helps a lot.) The tenor bears down, and there's a bit where he sounds like Hawk. "Long Ago" has the toughest tone in the bunch, and Dean Magraw says much in the space he has. Good overall, but I prefer the duets: mood swings with every horn, a world of tones, and beauty in many places. Uneven, but when the pieces fit (like "Hawk," "Sonnymoon," etc.) -- delightful.

Jazz Improv, vol. 2, no. 2 (Jan. 2000)