Mark Harvey — another trumpeter, composer, and bandleader — says, “He always pulled out things like the way a line was put together, or the phrasing, or the way he would move the line through the harmonies, and again this relationship stuff: the way he would relate to piano and bass, for instance. He would make a trio sound like a big band.”
Listen to Pomeroy’s various small group recordings of recent years and you can hear it all — the incomparable sense of space, his rich tone and warm, delicate vibrato on ballads, his swing at all tempos. On a recent Arbors CD, Walking on Air, with the fine Boston vocalist Donna Byrne, you can hear him in constant, almost verbal conversation with the singer. He does “Take the ‘A’ Train” at a daringly slow tempo with a mute, drawing out long tones, “adoring the melody,” as the late Ruby Braff might say.
Or go back, if you can find it, to one of those old Boston dates with Charlie Parker — June 1953 at the Hi-Hat. Bird tears through his choruses of “Cool Blues,” mixing in-tempo and double-time passages at will, juggling riffs, revisiting old ideas and making them new. It’s Parker at his playful best. Pomeroy enters with a two-note question mark before exploring the chords in phrases spelled by rests, but about a minute into his solo, an idea he’s been working on shoots to his upper register and repeats — a clarion, bluesy call that curlicues off into pearly ornaments. Herb doesn’t sound “terrified” or even like a brash 23-year-old — he’s talking to Bird, and he sounds thrilled.
MEMORIAL SERVICE IN CELEBRATION OF HERB POMEROY’S LIFE AND MUSIC | Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury St, Boston | September 9 at 3 pm | 617.546.3355