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|Birth name||Irving Herbert Pomeroy III|
April 15, 1930|
Gloucester, Massachusetts, U.S.
August 11, 2007|
|Associated acts||MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble|
Herb Pomeroy began playing trumpet at an early age, and in his early teens started gigging in the greater Boston area, claiming inspiration from the music of Louis Armstrong. In 1946, at the age of 16, he became a member of the Musicians Union in Gloucester after the union did not have enough members to conduct a meeting. After high school, he studied music at the Schillinger House in Boston, which is now the Berklee College of Music, and began to develop his interest in bebop.
Herb Pomeroy studied dentistry at Harvard University for a year but dropped out to pursue his jazz career. Charlie Parker liked Pomeroy's playing and hired him frequently when the alto saxophonist performed at Boston's Hi-Hat and Storyville clubs. Pomeroy also played with Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, and Serge Chaloff, among other jazz musicians. After his experience as a sideman in the big bands of Hampton and Kenton (separated by a five-month stint at leading his own 13-piece band in the early 1950s), Pomeroy put together a big band that drew national attention in the late 1950s in a Boston club called the Stable. He led the band from 1957 through the mid-1960s and intermittently until 1993. During that time, and afterward, he led additional small groups ranging typically from duo (usually with bassist John Repucci) to quintet. His big band played in Carnegie Hall and established series such as the Newport Jazz Festival on the same bill with Benny Goodman, Ellington, and other major jazz figures. Pomeroy also backed up several singers, including Mel Torme, Tony Bennett, Irene Kral, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra. He became noted[by whom?] as a master of music theory and musical form. Pomeroy's playing exhibited a limited upper range on the trumpet, but his extraordinary improvisational resources counteracted that limitation. Gradually during the mid-1990s, as Pomeroy performed more frequently with small groups, he abandoned the trumpet for the flugelhorn.
Although Herb Pomeroy is generally remembered as a music educator, his first love was performing as a trumpeter. He ranked leading a band and teaching music second and third, respectively, in his hierarchy of passions. He was not enthusiastic about recordings, always emphasizing that jazz is a music that must be witnessed in person. A good example of such an incident can be found in the Berklee video archives. The video documents an October 31, 2005 Friend Hall panel session on jazz in Boston at mid-century. At one point the panel was asked what the best recordings of jazz in Boston in the 1950s are. Several people offered suggestions. Finally, in apparent frustration, Herb told everyone to take all of the recommended recordings (most which featured Pomeroy) "and throw them away." Instead, he suggested that all people in attendance go out to clubs and "see live jazz."
In addition to his performing career, Herb Pomeroy also enjoyed an active teaching career. He helped found the Jazz Workshop on Stuart Street — under the leadership of Charlie Mariano - which included such musician/teachers as Varty Haroutunian, Ray Santisi, Serge Chaloff, Dick Twardzik and Pomeroy on the faculty. Later Pomeroy joined the faculty of the Berklee School of Music in Boston where he taught for 41 years. In 1963 Pomeroy was enlisted to revitalize the Techtonians big band at MIT. It was renamed the Festival Jazz Ensemble, and he continued as its director for 22 years. During his time as director he helped the FJE perform throughout the US as well as abroad, even helping them become the first college ensemble to appear at the Swiss Montreux Jazz Festival. His contribution to Music at MIT is well known and on May 10, 2008 the university had a memorial concert for him in the Kresge Auditorium. He also taught at the Lenox School of Music, where he conducted a full orchestra of his own students. After his retirement, Herb Pomeroy gave his time helping people study jazz in the Greater Boston area. In the later part of Pomeroy's life he did several workshops for local Middle and High School-aged students, most notably with the Gloucester Education Foundation.
Herb Pomeroy was recognized as the Boston Musician's Association 2004 Musician of the Year and received an honorary degree from Berklee after he retired in 1995. His final concert with the Berklee Jazz Ensemble was attended by well-noted musicians from around the world. In 1996 Pomeroy was inducted into the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) Hall of Fame, and in 1997 he was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Education Hall of Fame.
Former students include diverse players such as Gary Burton, Alan Broadbent, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Mickey Yoshino, Mika Pohjola, Gary McFarland, Franck Amsallem, Duško Gojković, Jože Privšek, Dennis Wilson (trombone), Lee Allen (piano), French composer Michel Barbaud, Slovenian composer Janez Gregorc, and Miroslav Vitouš. Musicians who played in his big bands run the gamut from Boots Mussulli to Sam Rivers and include such influential musicians as Alan Dawson, Jaki Byard (as saxophonist and arranger), Phil Wilson, Ray Santisi, Greg Hopkins, Tiger Okoshi (trumpeter), Yoichi J. Takahashi (Jazz composer and arranger), Dick Johnson, Charlie Mariano, Michael Gibbs, John LaPorta, Lennie Johnson, Serge Chaloff, Ryan Shore, Mike Nock, Bill Berry, Hal Galper, Joe Gordon, Michael D. Palma, Richard Festinger and many others.
- Jazz in a Stable (Transition, 1955)
- Life Is a Many Splendored Gig (Roulette, 1957)
- Band in Boston (United Artists, 1958)
- The Band and I (United Artists, 1958) with Irene Kral
- Pramlatta's Hips (Shiah, 1980)
- This Is Always (Daring, 1996)
- Walking on Air (Arbors, 1997)
With John Lewis
With Charlie Mariano
- Charlie Mariano with His Jazz Group (Imperial, 1950)
- Modern Saxophone Stylings of Charlie Mariano (Imperial, 1951)
With Gary McFarland
With Anita O'Day
- All the Sad Young Men (Verve, 1962)