The Troy Street Observer

Tak Takvorian Part 1: Navy Trombonist

Vahey “Tak” Takvorian was a trombonist by trade, a big-band trombonist by preference, and a member of some of the very best bands during their mid-century heyday. Takvorian toured the South Pacific with Artie Shaw’s navy band, played the glorious Gil Evans charts with Claude Thornhill, and played lead for Tommy Dorsey for five years. In the late 1970s, he had another go in Boston with the Herb Pomeroy Orchestra. He was a first-class sideman who made the most of his opportunities.

Photo of Tak Takvorian in navy uniform
Navy Musician First Class Tak Takvorian. Photo courtesy Denise Takvorian.

Tak Takvorian (1922-2009 ) was the first name-band musician I spoke with when I started researching The Boston Jazz Chronicles, in 2004. I wrote an article about him for the newsletter of the defunct New England Jazz Alliance. This updated article, with Tak’s own words from our 2004 interview and photos supplied by his daughter Denise, does a better job of giving this fine player his due.

Twin brothers Vasken and Vahey Takvorian were born in Somerville, Massachusetts in 1922. Their family moved to nearby Watertown a few years later. Both played music from an early age. Tak started on cello and switched to trombone at age 12. Vasken played bass. “Before I graduated from high school in 1940, I was already playing four nights a week with Larry Cooper’s band at the Mansion Inn in Cochituate (Massachusetts). Cooper played clarinet, and modeled his band after Artie Shaw’s. Being in school and playing nights…I didn’t have much time to do homework.” Tak also worked in violinist Lew Bonick’s dance band.

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July 13: Boston’s Big Band ‘Bones I

Label of V-Disc 573A, LST Party
V-Disc, “LST Party,” Sam Donahue’s Navy Dance Band, 1945

Last week I was thinking about trombonist Dick LeFave, another of the almost-forgotten ones of Boston jazz, and regretted I already had something written for his birthday, July 9. Then I started thinking about other trombone players who were active in the Boston Jazz Chronicles time frame, 1937-62, and where they perched on the “almost forgotten” to “well known” scale. I came up with a list of almost thirty.

Except for a few trad/Dixieland players, these trombonists served time in the big bands. Some were in Boston-based units, like those of Nat Pierce (Sonny Truitt, Mert Goodspeed, Bob Carr), Jimmie Martin (Jimmy Taylor, Jack Jeffers, Hampton Reese, Jaki Byard—yes, Jaki played trombone, too), and Herb Pomeroy (Gene DiStasio, Joe Ciavardone, Bill Legan). A few went from big bands to prominence in small groups (Vic Dickenson, J.C. Higginbotham), and a few went from small local groups to prominence in important big bands (Phil Wilson, Chuck Connors).

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