Herb Pomeroy, the trumpet player and band leader whose abilities to perform as a sensitive session player and produce band arrangements with edge were virtually unmatched in the 1950s, died August 11 in Gloucester, MA, at age 77.
In an era that produced a seeming endless supply of towering big band jazz trumpet virtuosos who were constantly recording, writing and performing—including Maynard Ferguson and Shorty Rogers—Pomeroy left a strong mark. Unlike many of his 1950s peers, who focused on dense packing brass and showing off a soloist's technical prowess, Pomeroy's writing had a gentler touch. He favored a more relaxed, patient approach that caught your ear rather than bombarding it into submission. Pomeroy liked to highlight the many different textures a band's instruments could produce and used solos to seduce rather than amaze with stamina.
Like the alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano, Pomeroy worked mostly in Boston during the 1950s and beyond. He played with Charlie Parker In late 1953 (at Boston's Storyville and Hi-Hat clubs), and he recorded with Stan Kenton, Eric Dolphy, Gary McFarland, Anita O'Day, Phil Woods, and the list goes on and on. If you wanted a rock solid chart reader on your recording date who also would add a warm tone and meaningful solos, you called Pomeroy.
In the 1960s and beyond, Pomeroy continued to perform and record, but he devoted more of his time to his greatest passion—teaching jazz at Schillinger House in Boston, which later became the Berklee School of Music.
High on my list of rare vinyl records that I wish would be released on CD is Pomeroy's Band in Boston (United Artists/1958). Pomeroy's arrangements on this album are spectacular—merging a feathery, West Coast sound with an edgy East Coast urgency. The album is quite special. If you happen to spot it on eBay, bid high. It recently went for around $50.
Wax tracks: My absolute favorite Pomeroy small-group recordings weren't made under his name. They appear on baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff's Boston Blow-Up! (1955), which features six terrific Boston musicians. Pomeroy was a member of the Serge Chaloff Sextet and wrote 9 of the 10 tracks on this album. They all swing.
Boston Blow-Up! is still availabe on CD but for some crazy reason it isn't available at iTunes.