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Im super excited about this new duo project with Josh Raymer!  We’re in New Orleans right now playing a series of gigs during Jazzfest.  We’ve heard some great music and eaten some amazing food.  Two more shows before we head to Austin then home!!

5/2 – Zeitgeist – New Orleans – w Cliff Hines Band

5/4 – Blue Nile – New Orleans – w Royal Potato Family Allstars

5/5 – Hole In The Wall – Austin – w Ghostmember, ThunderCougarFalconBird and Los Federales


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Twitter: @booomclap

Recent Press from Tulsa People

High score

Musician Chris Combs takes an original composition to Switzerland.

Chris Combs, right, talks with trumpet player Steven Bernstein before a performance of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey’s “Race Riot Suite” at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in July 2012. 

Chris Combs, above, talks with trumpet player Steven Bernstein before a performance of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey’s “Race Riot Suite” at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in July 2012.

Idon’t usually like to throw around the term “genius,” but it’s tough to conjure other superlatives that do proper justice to the work of guitarist, composer and all-around musical wizard Chris Combs.

The Tulsa native has been a staple of the local music scene since he was a teenager. (I’ve heard veteran Tulsa musicians recount stories of the first time they saw “the prodigy” wail on a guitar.) He’s now steel guitarist for “red dirt jazz” outfit Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, among many other side projects, and has drawn accolades from around the world for his lively and inventive work as a composer.

Recently, one of his compositions caught the ear of organizers of the Jazzwerkstatt Bern Festival in Bern, Switzerland, and they offered Combs the kind of opportunity most musicians couldn’t dream of, much less pull off.

“Their basic offer was: Create an original piece, we’ll bring you out here, and you can choose any lineup,” Combs says. “Five violins, or 10 harps, or whatever weird combination of music you can imagine — anything you want to try writing for, we’ll find the musicians to play it.”

Combs jumped at the chance, and set about composing a piece for 13 instruments, including steel guitar, drums, piano, bass and a horn section, as well as a string section, for which he’d never written. He spent months composing the 50-minute piece, sending charts and sheet music to his roster of Swiss musicians as he finished them.

The mind-blowing part of it all is that he wrote the entire piece without ever hearing anyone play the music as he was writing it.

“It just took a lot of imagination, I think, and a lot of pretending,” Combs says with a chuckle. “I don’t know. It’s mostly just imagination — and having some small amount of courage that it might work and it’s worth trying.”

It was that same courage and imagination that fueled Combs’s first venture into long-form composition: JFJO’s “Race Riot Suite,” which Combs composed and arranged in its entirety. What began as a couple of disparate musical ideas inspired by research into the darkest hour of Tulsa’s history grew into a revelatory masterwork, drenched in both the anguish of loss and the exaltation of hopeful perseverance.

“It’s definitely a special piece of music,” he says. “It felt like my dissertation — the result of everything I’ve learned from all the great Tulsa musicians I’ve played with and studied under over the years.”

“Race Riot Suite” was met with near universal praise, receiving sparkling reviews from publications such as the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe. While the band toured the material in Europe the following summer, Swiss vocalist Andreas Schaerer (who also happened to be one of the organizers of the Jazzwerkstatt Bern Festival) heard it and immediately contacted Combs to convey his admiration for the suite and to offer a spot at the festival.

Combs says he hopes to release the festival performance as an album, though he says that will depend on the quality of the recording. He’d also like to perform the piece in the U.S. sometime this year if the right venue comes along and he can round up the right musicians.

When I asked whether JFJO may tackle the piece in the near future, he just smiled.

“Jacob Fred has so much material. We have stuff just sitting around that we’ve never used,” he says. “I wouldn’t rule it out, but I’m more excited to continue the creation process.”

Such is life for a musical mastermind: scale a mountain and go looking for the next one.

Here’s hoping we can witness his next creation somewhere a tad more convenient than Switzerland.


Great times in Paris…next: Bern and Zurich Switzerland!

Today we head to Bern, Switzerland for the Jazzwerkstatt Festival.  Im insanely excited to hear this new music.  After working on something for so long its always rewarding to hear it come to life.  We have three rehearsals this week then the festival set on Friday.  We are recording it and I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone.

Next week, Jeff Harshbarger and I head to Zurich for a few days.  We’ll be hanging with innovative drummer Simon Berz for a few days and playing gigs on Monday and Tuesday.  Monday (2/25) we will be performing at Cafe Fur Dich and Tuesday (2/26) at IOIC.

We’ll be back home next week.  March, April, and May are gong to be very busy.  Lots and lots of stuff happening!  I’ll be curating a wonderful series at Tulsa’s Dwelling Spaces.  Check the Tour Dates area for more info.  Keep your ears to the ground for a new duo project from Josh Raymer and I.  We’ll be debuting it in the Tulsa area in April and then taking it down to New Orleans for Jazzfest in April/May.


Here We Go: Paris > Bern > Zurich

YYYES!  Getting excited for my fifth trip out of the USA to play music!!   This time I’m heading to Bern, Switzerland to premier 50 minutes of new music I’ve written for the Jazzwerkstatt Festival.  The set will include 3 new string quintets, and 4 new large ensemble pieces.  The string quintets are a first for me and Im looking forward to hearing it all come together!  The full-band compositions are reminiscent of the Race Riot Suite, though I’ve changed and evolved a lot as a musician and composer since I wrote the Suite.

JFJO bassist Jeff Harshbarger will be traveling with me.  Together we’ll be joined by 11 Swiss musicians to complete The Chris Combs Large Ensemble.  The set will be recorded and if all goes well there will be a release to follow later this year!

Jeff and I are flying in to Paris we’ll spend a few days exploring and soaking up one of the greatest cities in the world.  This will be my first time in Paris…so I’m insanely excited and a little nervous.  I’m hoping to have some extra time to sit down and write some music while we’re there.

We then head to Bern, Switzerland by train for the Jazzwerkstatt Festival.  Bern looks amazing.  Here’s a picture:



Yes.  5 days in Bern will be spent exploring the city and enjoying the jazz festival.  We then head to Zurich for a few days.  We’ll be staying and playing some music with our friend Simon Berz, who we met through our mutual friend and cello-genius Helen Gillet.

I’ll be posting lots of pictures and stories of our travels while we’re gone so keep checking back.



Combs to premier new work at Switzerland’s Jazzwerkstatt Jazz Festival

Combs will be heading to Bern, Switzerland this February with JFJO bassist Jeff Harshbarger to premier 50 minutes of new work including two string quintets, a first for the Tulsa-based composer.  The festival’s organizers reached out to Combs after hearing his composition, the Race Riot Suite, at Festival Lent in Slovenia during JFJO’s 2012 European tour.   Harshbarger and Combs will be joined by 11 Swiss musicians to perform the new music.  <br/>


Look for more European dates to be released soon…