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Paul Combs

Born 1946 in St. Louis MO, Paul Combs moved with his family to Philadelphia, PA in 1953. His earliest musical training included singing in his church choir, where the choir director took the time to teach singing and develop good ensemble sense. Paul also played trombone in the band at his elementary school. Later he attended Central H.S., studying theory and counterpoint there and at the Settlement Music School. His first saxophone studies were with Buddy Savitt. He began playing professionally in 1963, as a saxophonist and singer in a small band that played mostly functions. He also began doubling on flute at this time, and bass a couple of years later.

He earned a Bachelor of Music degree, in Composition, from the Philadelphia Musical Academy (now the University of the Arts) in 1968. He stayed in Philadelphia until 1971, playing in various bands, writing music for theater, producing concerts and producing music programs for WUHY-FM (now WHYY-FM).

Around 1970 Paul Combs began a musical exploration of his Appalachian ancestry. His father, a college English professor, was from Kentucky but had chosen to turn his back on that part of his background. This exploration led Combs to set aside the saxophone for a few years. From 1971 to 1974 he concentrated on guitar and bass, both acoustic and electric. He toured as a solo singer/guitarist and backed up several folk singers and songwriters in concerts and on recordings. These singers included, among others, Paul Gerimia, Mary McCaslin, U. Utah Phillips, Jim Ringer, Paul Seibel and Rosalie Sorrels. He was also involved in the co-operative management movement as a charter member of both the Wildflowers and Buck ‘n’ Wing co-operatives.

In 1974 Paul Combs returned to the saxophone. He worked with and founded various bands, some of them in collaboration with his friends in the folk music community. He studied flute with Al McDonald and Sharon Zuckerman around this time. Paul also assisted songwriter Bob Franke in producing his first recording, Love Can’t Be Bitter All The Time. His attention increasingly turned to jazz, which had been at the heart of his musical inspiration since his childhood, and led one of the first bands booked into Cambridge, Massachusetts’s fondly remembered 1369 Jazz Club, in 1976. Paul also produced his first film score in 1976, for Len and Georgia Morris’ (Galen Films) David Swann, an adaptation of a Nathaniel Hawthorn story.

In 1977 Combs attended the Creative Music Studio where he studied with Karl Berger, Jimmy Giuffre, Lee Konitz, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, and the late Don Cherry, among others. Later he moved to New York where he performed mostly in lofts such as The Brook and Environ, as well as some clubs. He also performed in The Masai, a music, dance and poetry work by fellow CMS alumnus, Kim Kimber.Unfortunately, complications in his personal life prevented him from taking full advantage of being in NYC and, in 1979, he returned to New England, where played in various rock bands and led his own jazz quartet. He also recorded with blues legends Robert Jr. Lockwood & Johnny Shines, whom he had met and performed with in the early seventies at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., as well as with rockabilly star Sleepy LaBeef.

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"You were wonderful at the Lowell concert" — David Amram

"Paul plays heavenly alto." Valerie Ridenour - Key West, The Newspaper

"...if you dig soprano saxophnone, you really should hear this guy. He's playing some of the most interesting straight horn around." - Larry Nai, Cadence Magazine

"It was fun playing with you . . .very nice "playing with a singer" chops, besides your sax virtuosity." — Blaise Lantana, vocalist/radio producer, KJZZ Phoenix

"...one of the [New England] region's premier Jazz sax players." - Martha Ouellette, Stroudwater Live Music Series

"[The Pocket Big Band] is a nine piece powerhouse with an outstanding jazz book

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Primary Instrument



San Diego


I taught for many years, both privately and in the classroom. Since moving to San Diego I have retired from teaching, although I may return to teaching one of these day. I enjoyed my years in education.

Clinic/Workshop Information

I am currently offering lectures, workshops, and residencies on topics related to Tadd Dameron's music, and what I have learned form my research. Contact me directly for the details. Teaching Experience (clinic, lecture and workshop) *MMEA All-State Conferences, clinics on creative teaching strategies for jazz ensemble.
*MMEA All-State Conferences, clinics on general music teaching strategies.
*Indian Hill Center for the Arts, Bell Arts Center, Mill Pond Arts Center, Timberlane Regional H.S

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