Reviews -

Hawk's Delight+/ Over The Rainbow*/ How Insensitive#/ Beautiful Love**/ Barbara+/ I Love You**/ Someday My Prince Will Come*/ Long Ago (And Far Away)#/ On The Trail++/ Sonnymoon For Two*. 48:47.
Combs, bari s, as, ts; Morris Acevedo, g+; Ken Cook, kybrds+,**; Tony Sumbury, b+; Mark Burdon, d+; Vaughn Gibson, p*; Dean Magraw, g#; Henry Gordon, b#; Tommy MacDonald, d#; Larry Garland, p++. 4 & 5/80, 7/80, Watertown, MA; 9/15/90, 1/4/92 Haverhill, MA; 2/91, Somerville, MA.
My Little Suede Shoes+/ All The Things You Are*/ One For Ken+/ Yardbird Suite+/ Laura#/ Road Song*/ Blue Skies For Beau**/ Yours Is My Heart Alone**/ I Got My Job Through BOP**. 64:03.
Combs, ss, bari s, flt; Jay Ford, g; Paul Ebersole, b; Stanley C. Swann III, d. 2/27/97*, 6/1/97 #; 1/18/98 +, Boston, MA; 8/1/97**, Acton, MA.

Paul Combs has had an interesting background; his early studies were with Buddy Savitt and, after a period of doing the casuals circuit, he performed as a singer/guitarist in folk circles (my first encounter with him was on an old Mary McCaslin album on Philo). In the 70s, Combs studied with Jimmy Giuffre, Lee Konitz, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell and Don Cherry, among others, at the Woodstock Creative Music Studio. Later, he backed up Robert Jr. Lockwood & Johnny Shines, and is currently at work on a book about Tadd Dameron. Combs sticks close to the melodies on (1), whose title track is a very enjoyable throwback to a late-1940's small group sound. While his chops sound like they's been out of action a bit on these earlier recordings, he has a nice tone on baritone and tenor, and a good feel for the material. The quintet with Acevedo and Cook is the better of the non-duet configurations, although they sound uncomfortable with Horace Silver's "Barbara," barely managing to keep the tune together over its seven-minute length. The duet tracks are modest but effective; Combs sounds most at ease, and most challenged, in his pairing with mentor Larry Garland on "On The Trail." Honest, good music, simply presented. But you'd never guess from (1) that Combs studied with the heavyweights listed above.

You could, however, surmise it pretty easily on (2), where Combs stretches out much more. The big surprise is his soprano playing, which swings hard and with an abundance of imagination - if you dig soprano saxophone, you really should hear this guy. He's playing some of the most interesting straight horn around. Combs blows baritone only on "All The Things You Are" and Wes Montgomery's "Road Song," with a fuller tone and surer articulation than are captured on (1). "Laura," "One For Ken," and "Yours Is My Heart Alone" are done on flute, and, while this may be his weaker double in terms of technique, his phrasing and ideas are solid and absorbing. Ditto his bandmates, who interact with spirited fervor and egos in check. Combs is worth checking out. (1) is a likable snapshot, but (2) offers a much more satisfying view.

-Larry Nai, Cadence, vol.25, no.5, May 1999