My Musical Equipment Closet

An opinionated collecton of short reviews of saxophones and woodwinds and the accessories which they require.

My Photo
Location: Santa Cruz, California, United States

"Other cultures are not failed attempts at being us. They are all unique manifestations of the human imagination and the human heart." Wade Davis

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Listen! Another giant has fallen.

Herb Pomeroy, a man who had a lot of effect on people I know, has died at age 77 of cancer.

I met him once, when my friend Ginger (who now teaches flute in Houston) took me to one of his Duke classes, in 1975. Ginger was a composition major at Berklee, a school which then doted on its guitar players but had enough respect for Herb that it practically enshrined two of his classes, Line Writing and Duke Ellington, after Herb returned to the school in the mid-seventies. Even though he had never met me, he made me feel right at home auditing his class, during which he played 78 rpm records and explained, as best as anyone could, what was going on. It was an impressive performance.

Afterward we talked, and to my astonishment, Herb told me about my dad's writing when they were both at Berklee--then called Shillinger House. He told me about a big band book my dad had written for a 13-piece band and how he was so proud of it that he had tried to get Herb out to Fitchburg to hear it. (Forty miles was a lot longer back then.) Herb continued until I had to leave, filling me in on a few details I didn't know about the band, and about my dad's education. (My dad was the first drummer to be admitted to what became Berklee. Back then drummers hardly ever read music.) The funny thing was, my dad's 13-piece big band was started right after I was born. At the time I met Herb I was 24, just off the Stan Kenton band.

There's nobody I know that Herb didn't touch this way. He made you feel special for just being there. He ran rehearsals the same way. Believe me, it's a struggle to get to a band rehearsal when you're playing 2nd Tenor Saxophone. You need to know that you're making a difference to make the rehearsal. Herb knew that, and knew how to bring out the best in your playing, because he knew what was going on musically all around him, and how important the internal parts are. This he learned himself from a lifetime of study of Duke.

It's easy to grow cynical in the world of music. While music becomes not so much an artistic pursuit as a study in survival, there are plenty of posers who get paid more than Crosus and Duke put together ever imagined. And yet, these are the people the mainstream press talks about as "musicians," people who mastered the are to lip-synching and who perform not music, but spectacle, and derivative spectacle at that.

That's what made Herb's life all the more remarkable. When he was 22, he was playing with Charlie Parker. Yet he never wavered in his resolve as a bandleader, as a teacher, as a player. He didn't have any bad habits. He never went to rehab or drove a Jaguar into a tree.

The night Duke died, I had tickets to see the Basie band play a gig in an old movie palace in Oakland, California. Needless to say, there was a bit of a wet blanket on the festivities. Basie himself pulled the plug a little early. I remember thinking that, if Basie was upset, there was something to be upset about. There was something, I reasoned, that would not and could not be replaced by Duke's passing. And so it was. No new Duke rose.

And so it is with Herb Pomeroy, son and grandson of Gloucester dentists. You made a difference.

See Herb's Wikipedia listing here.


Post a Comment

<< Home