Herb Pomeroy- the master of Jazz passes

If I had to pick one person who taught me the most about music and about life in general it would have to be Herb Pomeroy. Herb was a master at so many different things. His mastery of the art of Jazz improvisation was a magical thing, he may not have had the greatest chops in the world but I've never heard anyone improvise like Herb.
Because he was also a master composer and arranger he developed his solos like symphonies. Every phrase was related to the phase before it
and after it. He was a person who had high standards of personal integrity, this was also reflected in his music. His music was real, it contained real emotions that he wasn't afraid to reveal to others. He was always fresh, because improvising to him meant creating new ideas in the moment. He didn't let himself fall back on licks and patterns, every note he played had to fit perfectly with what was happening at that moment. Aside from his mastery of everything musical, the thing about him that never ceased to amaze me was the way he led a band. He had a total mastery of psychology which allowed him to get each musician in his band to do exactly what he wanted. He took a totally different approach with everyone according to their temperament. With some guys he was a hard-ass, with others he would subtly suggest to them what he wanted. He knew how to get the very best out of each person. He made you want to work as hard as you could for him because he always worked the hardest out of everyone in the band. Herb was the modern day Duke Ellington, and he knew Duke's music better than anyone alive. Like Duke Herb knew how to write for individuals, not just instruments. He knew all the strengths and weaknesses of every player in his band and he made allowances for everything. Like Duke he had a magnanimous personality that inspired love and devotion from his musicians.

I spent three years with Herb, at least four hours a week, and sometimes more if I was in one of his small combos or in his line writing band. He taught me that music was deathly serious and it is worth your entire focus, commitment and concentration. It was not to be taken lightly and he certainly did not put up with people who did. He also taught me that music is something that is so wonderful that it's worth dedicating one's entire life to. It is an honor and a high privilege to have known Herb and to have played music with him. He was one of the last of the true living masters of Jazz.

Don't Blame Me- Bird at Storyville w/Herb Pomeroy

Gloucester native Herb Pomeroy a jazz giant who passed gift of music to others

By Douglas A. Moser , Staff writer
Gloucester Daily Times

He never let any of his students or colleagues forget that making music is a joy and a privilege.

Judging from his own maxim and the testimony of those close to him, Irving "Herb" Pomeroy III crafted himself an existence of joy and did what he could to share it with the world around him, whether it be music or life itself.

The renowned jazz trumpeter and teacher, Gloucester born and raised, died at his home on Rust Island on Saturday afternoon after a series of bouts with cancer. He was 77.

A celebration of Pomeroy's life and music will be held at 3 p.m. Sept. 9 at Emmanuel Church on Newbury Street in Boston.

"As a daughter I appreciated him being the Rock of Gibraltar, and it's eye-opening to me at this point how far-reaching his effect was," Perry Pomeroy, 49 of Hamilton, said. "I knew that he was loved, that wasn't a surprise. It was the intimacy he offered to people everywhere. He was capable of global intimacy somehow."

Guitarist Anthony Weller said Sunday, before playing a concert at Stage Fort Park leading the Herb Pomeroy Trio in its namesake's stead, that Pomeroy's influence touched a generation of musicians while he taught at Berklee School of Music in Boston, directed the Festival Jazz Ensemble at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and played shows for decades both locally and around the world.

A jazz star while still in his early 20s, Pomeroy played trumpet with the Charlie Parker Quintet in Boston in the early 1950s and blew trumpet and flugelhorn with the likes of jazz legends such as Lionel Hampton and Stan Kenton and the Duke Ellington Orchestras. He backed vocalists Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dionne Warwick and Sarah Vaughn. And his successful students, to name a very few, include jazz luminaries Keith Jarrett, Gary Burton and Joshua Redman, Weller said.

Musicians around the world, upon hearing of Pomeroy's recent ill turn of health, sent dozens upon dozens of cards wishing him well and a speedy recovery. Family members said they have received cards and letters from those he taught, those he played with, and "we're not just talking people he was close to, but guys he taught at MIT 30 years ago that are writing these and talking about how he so affected their lives and his influence on them," said son Eden Pomeroy.

Roughly 25 cards have been arriving daily, he said, and 35 came yesterday.

Eden and Perry Pomeroy remember a father first, however, and a musician and teacher, busy engaging the globe, second.

"No matter what was going on, my lunch money would appear on my dresser every night, no matter how late he was working," Perry Pomeroy said. "It was one of the little things that meant so much. He was always there. He was very good at taking care of business for us."

Eden Pomeroy, 41 and now living in Florida, recalled summer camping and fishing trips to northern New Hampshire, playing catch to practice for Little League baseball and going to Red Sox and Bruins games.

"We did the stuff that didn't have to do with music, which I cherish because he was so busy," he said. "That's what I love about my dad. We had a relationship that was separate from all the hoopla."

Neither Eden, a sales representative, nor Perry, an art teacher, delved deeply into music. Eden Pomeroy said he played the clarinet as a youngster, but gave it up - without resistance from his father.

"He allowed me to do what I wanted to do," he said. "I played clarinet by my own choice, and when I didn't like it any more, I stopped."

Eden suspects that mentality came from Herb Pomeroy's own upbringing, where his grandfather and father, both dentists named Irving H. Pomeroy, groomed him to follow their professional path. After three years at Gloucester High School, Irving H. the Third transferred to Williston Academy in East Hampton to prepare for college and graduated in 1949.

Herb Pomeroy spent one year at Harvard University and left, both the school and the chosen path, to join with the Parker Quintet in Boston.

His love of music, Perry Pomeroy said, came from his mother, Alice, a semiprofessional pianist.

"He was also exposed to Louis Armstrong at a young age, probably also from his mother, and he was blessed with extraordinary talent," Perry Pomeroy said. "It was those three things."

Shortly after, he formed his own band, the Herb Pomeroy Big Band, and traveled the United States to play in Boston, New York, New Orleans and other jazz hot spots.

In 1955, Pomeroy started teaching at Schillinger House, which would become Berklee School of Music, in Boston and stayed on the faculty for 40 years.

"He had the soul of the music in his heart when he played," said Ken Pullig, chairman of the jazz composition department at Berklee, and a former student of Pomeroy's. "Herb was the iconic Berklee figure for many years."

Pomeroy married his first wife, Betty, a jazz singer from Columbus, Ga., in 1957.

His musical stature grew, and in 1963, MIT asked Pomeroy to salvage its jazz ensemble. He joined as the director of the Festival Jazz Ensemble, drawing interest and talent and turned the struggling band into a global award winner. He remained there until 1985.

He was inducted into the International Association of Jazz Educators Hall of Fame in 1996, and into the Down Beat Jazz Education Hall of Fame the following year.

Pomeroy winterized the family's summer home on Rust Island in 1986 and moved from Brookline, where the family had lived during the winters, to live in Gloucester full-time.

"He never lost his connection to Gloucester and what it meant to him," Perry Pomeroy said. "He was born there, he spent most of his life there, and that's where he wanted to be when he died."

Anne Strong, a lifetime Rust Island resident who had been the Pomeroys' neighbor since Herb and Betty, who died in 1982, bought the home in 1968, said she will miss hearing him warming up before leaving for a gig.

"I grew up with his children," she said. "Once I saw him play in Copley Square with his big band when I was 12. Afterward, being very much the smart alec, I asked him for an autograph. He found a piece of paper and a pen and signed it, 'Eden's father.'"

Pomeroy remarried in 1991, wedding Dorothy "Dodie" Gibbons, originally of Buffalo, N.Y.

Just after he moved back to Gloucester, he started playing concerts in Stage Fort Park, a tradition that continued to the day after his death, when Weller, the guitarist in the Herb Pomeroy Trio, led a tribute. Pomeroy used his talent to raise money for community organizations and benefits.

"He was generous, with his continuing to help, whether it's the Cape Ann Historical Society, going into the schools, playing local restaurants," said Mayor John Bell, whose family was close to Pomeroy. "He shared his professionalism, his creativity and his talent with the community."

Besides music, his children said Herb Pomeroy was an avid sports fan, and while he loved the Red Sox, the Inter-Town Baseball League and Gloucester High School football were more dear.

"After I moved to Florida, when I'd talk to him on the phone, he'd give me updates on how the Fishermen were doing," Eden Pomeroy said.

As salaries and egos spiraled ever upward in baseball, Perry Pomeroy said her father preferred the amateur league for its integrity, for athletes playing for the sport as opposed to the money or fame.

"Gloucester High School football, Inter-Town Baseball, he found those to be sports in the purest form," she said.

Harold "Bucky" Rogers, president of Cape Ann Savings Bank, which helped sponsor the Stage Fort Park concerts, recalled Pomeroy's love for and encyclopedic knowledge of the Red Sox, and of his disillusionment with the direction the sport took.

"I remember him talking about the large salaries the professional players made, and then how he enjoyed going to the Inter-Town League and watching baseball at its purest," he said.


MonksDream said...

Woah! I'd never really heard Herb Pomeroy play before. Is this off of Bird at Storyville or Bird Live at Storyville? Is there any other recordings that you would recommend checking out?

I liked his sound a lot. He reminded me of Kenny Dorham's ballad playing with Hank Mobley, with the introspective quality of the lines of the latter (for some reason this really brought to mind Mobley's recording of "I Should Care" off of "Messages."

For some reason, he also brought to mind Benny Golson's approach to soloing, in the way that he brings a composer's thoughtfulness to his extemporizaneous excursion (I know shoot me for that last phrase.)

I don't know why, but his trumpet approach really has a tenor-like quality to it, but maybe I'm just reaching. Pomeroy must have been a great man to learn from. RIP!

David Carlos Valdez said...

Select discography

With Donna Byrne
* Walking On Air (Arbors Records)

* Life is a Many Splendored Gig - The Herb Pomeroy Orchestra Roulette Records LP R-52001

* Band in Boston - The Herb Pomeroy Orchestra United Artists Records LP UAS 5015

* The Band and I - Irene Kral and the Herb Pomeroy Orchestra United Artists Records LP UAS 5016

* Pramlatta's Hips - The Herb Pomeroy Orchestra Shiah Records LP HP-1

* Charlie Parker at Storyville - Charlie Parker with ensemble including Herb Pomeroy on five tracks Blue Note Records LP BT-85108

* Here's to Joe - Paul Broadnax with ensemble including Herb Pomeroy Brownstone Recordings CD BRCD 9611

* The Bird You Never Heard - Charlie Parker with Bostonians Herb Pomeroy, Bernie Griggs, and Baggy Grant on four tracks Stash Records CD

David Carlos Valdez said...

On that Storyville recording Herb was only 21 years old. You can imagine that he sounded totally different with 40 more years of experience.

David Carlos Valdez said...

Jazz trumpeter Herb Pomeroy dies after battle with cancer

By Mark Pratt, Associated Press Writer | August 14, 2007

BOSTON --Jazz trumpeter Herb Pomeroy, who played with Charlie Parker, backed up Frank Sinatra, and influenced generations of musicians in four decades as a teacher at Berklee College of Music and MIT, has died.

Pomeroy died at his Gloucester home on Saturday after a long struggle with cancer, his daughter said. He was 77.

Pomeroy played at times with Parker, Charlie Mariano, Stan Kenton, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins and others. In addition to Sinatra, he backed Tony Bennett and Sarah Vaughn.

"Herb was renowned as one of Boston's most famous musicians, not just for who he played with, but for his own bands. He was highly regarded by everyone," said Ken Pullig, the chairman of Berklee's Jazz composition department and one of Pomeroy's former students.

Pomeroy was also a "magnet" that helped draw students, Pullig said.

"When (Berklee founder) Larry Berk first hired him Herb already had quite a reputation around Boston and it gave the fledgling school some credibility. For many years he was the icon that really attracted students from all around the world."

Pomeroy taught like he played jazz -- by improvising, with no notes, no syllabus, no text books, said Larry Monroe, another former student who is now Berklee's vice president for international affairs.

"He personified the educator, the performer, the activist, everything that makes music go," Monroe said. "He literally influenced thousands and thousands of musicians."

Above all else, however, Pomeroy was a family man, said his daughter, Perry Pomeroy. He fashioned his career so he could always put family first.

"His most outstanding characteristic was his unwavering dependability," she said. "He was a constant force, and as a parent, he was very reliable, and for me as a child that was an invaluable feeling to have about a parent."

Pomeroy was also an unwavering fan of amateur sports, particularly the Gloucester High School football team, and the local Inter-Town Baseball League.

"He planned his schedule around sports and was a fixture in the stands for decades," Perry Pomeroy said.

Irving Herbert Pomeroy III was born and raised in Gloucester and began playing music as a teenager. He spent a year at Harvard before leaving to become a full-time musician. In addition to his daughter, Pomeroy leaves his wife, Dodie Gibbons; a son, Eden Pomeroy; four stepchildren; 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A memorial service is scheduled for Sept. 9 at Emmanuel Church in Boston.

David Carlos Valdez said...

Creative musician's sweet notes cherished
Jazz trumpet player Herb Pomeroy dies

By Bryan Marquard, Globe Staff | August 14, 2007

Raising trumpet to lips, Herb Pomeroy would play improvised solos so thoughtful and textured it was if the notes danced gracefully in his ear and mind long before they slipped out the bell of his horn.

"He was one of the most skillful and clever of improvisers," said the vibraphonist Gary Burton. "A lot of improvisers, when they soloed, played familiar jazz licks, as we say. Herb was one of the players where you could really see his mind at work. When he played solos, you could see him telling stories, developing themes, creating serious content."

During a career that became a hefty chapter in the history of jazz, Mr. Pomeroy played with bebop luminaries such as Charlie Parker, put together seminal ensembles in Boston, and helped create the field of jazz education as a teacher at Berklee College of Music, MIT, and New England Conservatory.

He died of cancer Saturday afternoon while lying in a bed on the sun porch of his house on Rust Island in Gloucester, surrounded by windows and views he had held dear since his childhood in the North Shore community. Mr. Pomeroy, who was 77, had been a pivotal figure in Boston's jazz scene for decades.

"In this history of Boston jazz, his is the number one name that I think would come up on any musician's list," Burton said.

"Instead of six degrees of separation, you could always connect everybody through Herb Pomeroy," said Bob Blumenthal, a former Globe jazz critic. "He was just the center of it all."

Musicians who sat in with a Pomeroy ensemble, played in his bands, or attended his classes were only one degree away from a who's who of jazz royalty. Along with Burton and Parker, Mr. Pomeroy played at various times with Ornette Coleman, Stan Getz, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins, Stan Kenton, Gerry Mulligan, Max Roach, and Sonny Rollins.

During four decades at Berklee, 22 years at MIT, and a stint at New England Conservatory, Mr. Pomeroy taught hundreds of students. His bands played at festivals alongside the orchestras of Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman and backed singers including Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.

"I think it's fair to say, without hyperbole, that there's no single figure in the New England jazz scene who has done more to influence not only jazz performance, but also jazz education," said Fred Harris, director of wind ensembles at MIT, where Mr. Pomeroy founded the Festival Jazz Ensemble.

A passion for teaching and the desire for a reliable income to support his family prompted Mr. Pomeroy to tour less than most performers of his caliber. Nonetheless, musicians say, he left a lasting mark with his trumpet.

"There's just a sound -- the way he holds a tone, the distribution of notes -- and you hear living history," said Ran Blake, a pianist and teacher at New England Conservatory who performed with Mr. Pomeroy.

"He was an extremely warm, concise man, and so his solos tended to be warm and poetic and audacious, I would say," said Anthony Weller of Gloucester, a guitarist who performed in small ensembles with Mr. Pomeroy in recent years. "He surprised us constantly. There was never a sense of, 'Oh, I've heard him play that before.' "

For Mr. Pomeroy, performance always trumped recorded music. Burton, a student of Mr. Pomeroy's at Berklee who later became a teaching colleague, said he wished his friend had recorded more to leave a "permanent record of his talent and contributions."

"I don't really believe in recorded music," Mr. Pomeroy told the Globe in 1995, when he retired from Berklee, from which he received an honorary doctorate. "I think music is such a special thing that it should be just for those who create it and listeners willing to take the trouble to come and hear it."

Born in Gloucester, Irving Herbert Pomeroy III began playing professionally as a teenager. He spent a year at Harvard, then left to become a full-time musician. At 23, he played with Parker, the saxophonist who helped found bebop. After playing in bands led by Hampton and Kenton, he formed the Herb Pomeroy Big Band, which performed often at the fabled Stables jazz club in Copley Square.

Mr. Pomeroy had studied music at Schillinger House, which preceded Berklee, and was a regular at Stables when the college's founder, Larry Berk, asked him to join the faculty.

"I had been working at the Stables, which was good, but it paid $60 per week, which wasn't much when you had a wife and two kids," Mr. Pomeroy told the Globe in 1995. "So I accepted the job for economic reasons."

His courses, including one on Ellington, became legendary. "I came to Berklee as a student when I was 17 years old," Burton said. "Herb was, even at that point, the most charismatic and important teacher at the school."

That warmth carried over into his work with ensembles, where he was known as much for his patience and encouragement as for his exacting standards.

"He was a class act, and he also had this integrity and honesty," said his wife, Dodie Gibbons. "I loved that about him."

Along with his wife, Mr. Pomeroy leaves a daughter, Perry of Hamilton; a son, Eden of Lake Worth, Fla., two sisters, Paula Pomeroy Rix of Ormond Beach, Fla., and Paige Pomeroy Marto of Cookeville, Tenn.; two stepdaughters, Colleen Gibbons of Buffalo and Bridget Gibbons of Bronxville, N.Y.; two stepsons, Kevin Gibbons of West Hartford, Conn., and Daniel Gibbons of San Francisco; 11 grandchildren; and one great-grandson.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Sept. 9 in Emmanuel Church on Newbury Street in Boston.

David Carlos Valdez said...

from a newsgroup-
"Incidentally he had at least a few albums under his own name. One was
"Life is a Many Splendored Gig" from 1957. I managed to get a hold of a duped copy a few years back. Big Band Renaissance, a Smithsonioan box set of immeasurable value, had a cut by Pomeroy on their collection
from this recording "Theme for Terry". The accompaning text:

"One of the earliest part-time bands, THE Orchestra was the prototype for many that followed. Conceived in December 1951 by three Washington,D.C. musicians (Joe Turner, Ben Lary, and Jack Holliday), it consisted
entirely of players who lived and worked in that area; many were
ex-road band musicians who had returned home. The band was fronted by broadcaster Willis Conover (b. 1920), later famous for his "Music USA" jazz shows on the Voice of america, and its musical directer was Joe Timer (1923-55). The chief arranger for THE Orchestra was Bill Potts, who became musical director after Timer's death. The band ceased to exist after the mid-1950's.

Boston's counterpart to THE Orechestra was a band by Herb Pomeroy (b.1930), a trumpter-arranger who returned to Boston after stints in 1953
and '54 with Lionel Hampton and Stan Kenton. Pomeroy began working with tenor saxophonist Varty Haroutunian's small group at the Stable, a Boston nightclub, and in 1955 he persuaded the owner to book a big band on Tuesday nights, and, later, Tursdays as well.

The gig at the Stable lasted for the remainder of the 50's, and aside from several recordings and appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival and at Birdland, remained the band's principal outlet. Endowed with two fine lead trumpeters (Johnson and Ferretti) and a number of gifted solists (Pomeroy, Haroutunian, Joe Gordon, Gene DiStasio, Boots Mussolli, Ray Santisi, and later, alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano and trumpeter Bill Berry), the band was also well furnished with arrangements from Pomeroy, Santisi, Mussulli, Jaki Byard, Bob Freedman,
and Arif Mardin.

Freedman (b. 1934) in particular wrote a number of thoughtful
originals, including Theme for Terry. An altered 16-bar blues in
G-minor (with eventual modulations to F-minor and D-minor as well), the piece has some of the flavor of the Woody Herman "Four Brothers"
saxophone section, even though Freedman uses alto lead instead of
tenor. Freedman went on to a varied career as an educator and
conductor, and as a recording arranger for Thad Jones-Mel Lewis, Grady Tate and Wynton Marsalis.

Pomeroy continued to organize other bands in the 60's and 70's. Since
1955 he also has been one of the premier jazz educators, teching in
Boston at the Berklee College of Music and the Masachusetts Institute
of Technology."

David Carlos Valdez said...

from Greg Hopkins:

Sadly I inform you of the passing of our good friend and musical mentor, Herb Pomeroy, on Saturday August 11th, 2007. He was like a father to many of us, and an icon for so many decades. I have that giant empty feeling inside, like a big part of my own life has just gone into darkness. All those gigs and all those rehearsals, and now,
all those memories -- really good ones.

I've heard there will be a wake on Wednesday, in Gloucester, but check the papers for sure.

The 2nd Trumpetter
Greg Hopkins

David Carlos Valdez said...

I just ordered Herb's Walking on Air and Pramlatta's Hips from eBay. Pramlatta's Hips is out of print and was only available on LP. I'm going to post some of the tracks on this blog when I get them. Let them come after me!

People need to hear what Herb's music sounded like.

I've been playing big band music for over thirty years and I can say without hesitation that Herb's big band charts are hands down the best material for big band I've ever played.

Bondelev said...

Nice posts about Herb. Pramlatta's Hips is probably his best album.

I wrote a bit about Herb on my blog as well.


David Carlos Valdez said...

Great post on Herb DB.

I'd like to see a memorial website where people could post their stories about him.

Bondelev said...

There's a guest book on the Berklee web site.