Paul Broadnax and the Paul-Champ Three
Paul Broadnax chuckled when I asked him to sign my copy of his LP, Introducing the Paul-Champ Three. “Now I know there are at least two people who have this record,” he said. “You, and me!” Broadnax, who died at age 92 on August 1, 2018, made that record in 1966. When I showed him my copy in 2014, he said it had been quite some time since he’d last seen one.
The Three were Paul Broadnax, piano and vocals; Champlin “Champ” Jones, bass and vocals; and Tony Sarni, drums. Broadnax and Jones shared arranging duties. The two first met in 1950, when Broadnax was writing arrangements for the Sabby Lewis Orchestra, and Jones joined as bassist. They started out as a duo in about 1960, and added Sarni on drums shortly after—there was more work for a trio. And they found plenty of it.
The Paul-Champ Three wasn’t a jazz group, although their sets always included jazz. The instrumental numbers especially gave Broadnax space to improvise. They advertised themselves as a general business band, even said it right in the album liner notes. “They had the events business sewed up.” Fred Taylor told me. He booked them at Paul’s Mall. “Every wedding, every function. They played all the good cocktail parties. And they swung.” They had lengthy residences in suburban lounges like the Cottage Crest in Waltham and the Chateau de Ville in Framingham.
With their mix of current pop tunes, standards, and Broadnax’s own compositions, the Paul-Champ Three played things everybody liked. It served them well, and they worked steadily through the rock wave of the late sixties and early seventies.
Not a Full Time Gig
I’m not sure when the group disbanded, or why. I’ve found no mentions of the Paul-Champ Three after October 1976. Perhaps Champ Jones left the music business to concentrate on his day job. He became a mortician, and owned and operated funeral homes in Cambridge and Everett. Paul and Tony kept going for a time in the late 1970s with another bassist, as the Paul Broadnax Trio, but then Sarni’s day job—he ran a remodeling business in the western suburbs—pulled him away from music, too.
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