January 27, 1926-August 1, 2018
It was May 28th, 2017, the last night of Sunday Night Jazz at The Press Room in Portsmouth before the venerable venue would close its doors in the midst of the club's sale and plans for renovation that would take upwards of a year and a half. So it was going to be a special, nostalgic night in the room, no matter what happened musically. But Sunday Night Jazz host Ryan Parker doubled down, booking pianist/vocalist Paul Broadnax and his Trio for the night, ensuring a standing-room-only audience. Filling out the trio were longtime musical companions Peter Kontrimas, the bassist, and drummer Les Harris, Jr. Tenor saxophonist Fred Haas, another longtime associate of Paul's, joined the group. And before the night was through, Sharon Jones was also on the stage to perform duets with Paul. It was a magical night.
For those Seacoast fans of jazz and of Paul Broadnax who might have pondered the perfect symmetry of re-launching Sunday Night Jazz in 2018 with a performance by Paul Broadnax, that hope died on August 1st, Paul’s last day on earth.
It's with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to one of our truly elegant jazz statesmen, Mr. Paul Broadnax. Playing gigs up until the last possible minute, at age 92 (!!!) Paul exemplified absolute class, professionalism, swing, and musicality. We were lucky enough to witness his unique approach to both singing and piano playing. Paul was always welcomed as a family member to both our UNH community, at the Press Room, or anywhere else in New England where we could get him to come to. Rest assured, he is at peace after a life long lived, hopefully hanging and playing with Herb Pomeroy, Tommy Gallant, Jim Howe, Dick Johnson, and all the rest, who gave of their time and abilities to make the rest of us feel better about being alive, if only for a short while. —Ryan Parker
The child of two well-known and influential Boston-area classical musicians, Paul Broadnax was appreciating and performing music at an early age. His mother, Ellastine Lee Broadnax, was a legendary vocal and piano teacher. His school chums included Roy Haynes, Ray Perry, Alan Dawson, and other notables.
After high school, Paul served in the Air Force and, following his discharge, while earning an engineering degree, did arranging for the Sabby Lewis Band. He freelanced during the 1950s and performed with the Tom Kennedy and Buster Daniels bands. At that time, he played tenor sax and piano and sang. In the 1950s and 1960s he began a musical association with longtime friend and bassist Champ Jones and drummer Tony Sarni that flourished throughout the mid ’seventies: the Paul Champ Three.
Paul Broadnax passed away yesterday. He was 92 years old. The world has lost not only a world class musician but a beautiful, inspirational, loving human being who had the heart and soul of a giant. I have so many beautiful memories both on and off the bandstand with Paul, but what keeps coming back to me is how loving and caring he was to my daughter and how much she loved and adored him. The love that he showed my child through the years says everything about the type of person Paul Broadnax was and it’s something I’ll be forever grateful for. RIP Paul... my mentor, my inspiration, my dear friend... I’ll love you and miss you always. —Les Harris, Jr.
In the late ’70s, Paul led a new trio with bassist Lenny Harlos and drummer Ken Hadley, the latter two being succeeded in the early ’80s by bassist Dave Trefethen and drummer Peter Bodge, a unit that stayed together for some 15 years. The recent trio — with Peter Kontrimas and Les Harris, Jr. — had been together since the early ‘90s and performed throughout New England in concert venues, clubs, schools, for special occasions, and on radio and television right up until Paul’s final days.
Paul has appeared with many nationally recognized jazz artists including such notables as Clark Terry, Joe Williams, Milt Hinton, Dorothy Donegan, Alan Dawson, Lionel Hampton, Cab Calloway, Jimmy Witherspoon, Diahann Carroll, Donna Byrne and Rebecca Parris.
Still in shock over this... Kind of crazy being in shock of the passing of a man who lived (and I mean lived) to the age of 92. Still... music seemed to be the fountain of youth for him, I mean he was even still setting up his own keys and PA when needed! So yes it is a shock and very hard to accept. Loved him and had always looked way up to him. ... My heart goes out to his and your family (Yours, after all, was an extension of his family.) —TJ Wheeler