The Troy Street Observer

April 15: Birthday Tribute to Herb Pomeroy

On April 15, 1930, Irving Herbert Pomeroy was born in Gloucester, Mass.

I’m getting an opportunity to voice my own thoughts about Herb Pomeroy at MIT on April 26, as part of the celebration surrounding the 50th anniversary of Jazz at MIT. To mark his birthday, I thought I’d look at what a few more knowledgeable observers have had to say about Herb and his music over the years.

Herb Pomeroy photo
Herb Pomeroy 1977, courtesy of Berklee College of Music

“Charlie Mariano cut an album for Prestige with Dick Twardzik and a potentially great young trumpeter, Herb Pomeroy.” (Nat Hentoff, Down Beat, Apr 8 1953)

“Herb Pomeroy and his big band played half a dozen blazing Kentonish-Basielike arrangements and then—in itsfinal number, “The Lunceford Touch,” done in the manner of the Lunceford band—got off some brass figures that were  so loud and so brilliantly executed that the air in the park seemed to be rolled right back to the bleachers.” (Whitney Balliet, on the Pomeroy band at Newport, 1958)

“It’s a band with some of the exuberant shout of the old Herman Herd, and the roughness of the Dizzy Gillespie big bands. Yes, and maybe even the ragged swing of the Fletcher Henderson bands before that—when big band jazz was still young and thrilling to play. It’s a band that’ll make you feel that life is worth living. And jazz is worth hearing. I, for one, am glad to have the Herb Pomeroy band back on the jazz scene.” (John McLellan, in the Boston Traveler, Jul 21, 1960)

“Very exciting, his big band. I was glad to be there.” (Sam Rivers, in conversation Dec 19 2005)

“The Pomeroy orchestra probably plays Duke Ellington’s music better than any band on earth.” (Bob Blumenthal, Boston Globe, Mar 20 1981)

“Herb’s standards of musical excellence and emotional truth still stand as guides for everything I do …Herb never let any of us forget that making music is a joy and a privilege.” (Jamshied Sharifi, quoted in the MIT Tech, Apr 26 2000)

“Increased opportunity to play since his academic retirement has brought greater continuity and drama to Pomeroy’s playing, and his choruses were bittersweet stories where phrases flowed with unerring grace. His plunger solo on the ’60s soul-jazz throwback “Lopin’,” and the introspective Harmon mute work on “Dorothe” and “Pink Lady” added a timelessness to the music without inhibiting its immediacy.” (Bob Blumenthal, Boston Globe, May 20, 2000)

“He was one of the most skillful and clever of improvisers. A lot of improvisers, when they soloed, played familiar jazz licks. 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.” (Gary Burton, quoted in the Boston Globe, Aug 14 2007)

“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.” (Fred Harris, quoted in the Boston Globe, Aug 14 2007)

“You’re wailing, Herbert!” (Charlie Parker, on the bandstand at the Hi-Hat, June 1953)

To the music. First up is “Where’s Charlie?” by the 1959 band, a live version but I’m not sure of the location.

Next is Herb playing a solo on “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing,” from a 2003 concert. NOTE: Some browsers might have trouble with the second video. Chrome for one does not.

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