Pocket Big Band at Chit Chat

By Marcia Stanley, Staff Writer (Haverhill Gazette, Feb. 19, 2004)


Jazz virtuoso Paul Combs and his 9-piece Pocket Big Band will sashay into town Sunday for the final in a series of live recordings at the Chit Chat Lounge, 103, Washington St. from 6 to 10 p.m. The band plans to release its first live CD later this spring.


Formed in November 2001, group members hail from the Boston area and Merrimack Valley region. Most are full-time musicians and Combs has over 38 years experience as a musician, teacher, composer and arranger.


Looking for a suitable residency for his ensemble, Combs settled on Haverhill because of a business relationship he formed with Chit Chat owners in the 1970s. The Pocket Big Band and Combs’ 16-piece big band[1] have been appearing regularly on Sunday evenings. Local jazz vocalist Tyra Penn is a frequent accompanist.


“They’re the cream of the crop,” said Gary Schena, Chit Chat Lounge owner.


“Paul uses the gigs at the Chit Chat as a working lab,” said band member Doug Leaffer. “It’s also a forum for us (musicians) to learn from one another and from Paul.”


Combs is writing a book titled “Dameronia” which centers on the life and work of jazz composer Tadd Dameron.  On a research visit to Rutgers University Combs found a Dameron lost arrangement, “Mary Lou,” and has arranged the piece for his band. He is also working to establish privileges to allow Dameron’s widow to collect royalties.


The public is encouraged to attend Sunday’s performance to be part of the live recording.


We are very excited to record live and the guys have come up to a higher musicianship because of it,” said Leaffer.

[1] This is actually the Special Edition Big Band, Lead by Gerry Barrett and Jim Pastore. I was just one of the members. – P. C.