One of the best albums by the Herb Pomeroy Orchestra was recorded live at the El Morocco in Worcester, Mass., in 1980. It's also among the rarest. Even many fans of the Boston trumpeter and bandleader are probably unaware of the LP's existence. Released on Shiah Records, Pramlatta's Hips never made it onto CD, which is truly a shame. However, I suspect that after this post, someone will figure out a way to make it available as a download.
Shiah Records was a short-lived Boston label in the early 1980s. It was founded by local radio personality Ron Della Chiesa and producer Wil Morton, with Jane Arsham of Gloucester Productions in Newton, Mass., handlng the label's mastering and pressing. There were only 12 Shiah releases, Pramlatta's Hips being the first.
For those not in the know, Herb Pomeroy led New England's finest bands in the '50s. The trumpeter not only attracted terrific musicians and arrangers but also persuaded many of them to stick around and not abandon Boston for New York and Los Angeles. Whatever his Svengali management strategies were, they worked for the most part.
Some of Pomeroy's Massachusetts pals, of course, did get away. Among them were alto saxophonists Charlie Mariano and Boots Mussulli, tenor saxophonist Varty Haritounian, baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff [pictured], pianist Dick Twardzik and others, not always to great end.
In the late '50s, the band that Pomeroy had assembled almost as a counterweight to Maynard Ferguson's ferocious orchestra recorded two exciting albums. These were Life Is a Many Splendored Gig (1957) and Band in Boston (1958). Around this time, he also began teaching full-time at Boston's Berklee College of Music, which had been called Schillinger House when Pomeroy attended.
Then in the late '70s, Pomeroy began gigging again. Pramlatta's Hips was the result of one of these dates. The band on the album featured Herb Pomeroy, Wes Hensel, Everett Longstreth, Paul Fontaine, Greg Hopkins (tp) Phil Wilson (tb,arr) Gene DiStasio (tb) Tak Takvorian (b-tb) Dave Chapman (as) Dick Johnson (as,sop) John LaPorta (ts,arr) Mike Monaghan (ts) Jimmy Derba (bar,sop) Bill Davies (p) John Neves (b) Fred Buda (d) and Hal Crook and Mike Gibbs (arr).
I'm not sure who Pramlatta is or was or why her hips held special appeal. I have an email in to Hal Crook, the song's composer and arranger. More to come once I hear back.
Pramlatta's Hips has quite a few highlights, among them a swinging alto solo by Chapman on the title track, a superb piccolo solo by Monaghan [pictured] on The Great Hat, and a terrific overall arrangement of Remembering Mingus by John LaPorta, who also wrote the tune.
Sadly, this would be Pomeroy's last known big band recording before his death in 2007. He would lead a few other small group recording sessions and appear on many dates by other artists. But as for his nimble big bands, Pramlatta's Hips would be it—and boy was it a killer.
JazzWax tracks: Sadly, Pramlatta's Hips (Shiah) is not on CD, though it may be available at download sites. I did notice a couple of copies of the LP on eBay at startlingly low prices. Herb Pomeroy's Life Is a Many Splendored Gig and Band in Boston are both available as downloads at iTunes and Amazon here and here.
A special JazzWax thanks to David Langner.
JazzWax clips: Here's the sweet sound of Herb Pomeroy's flugelhorn in 1984...
And here's Pomeroy and some Boston pals back in 1955...