boston.com News your connection to The Boston Globe

Jazz trumpeter Herb Pomeroy dies after battle with cancer

BOSTON --Jazz trumpeter Herb Pomeroy, who played with Charlie Parker, backed up Frank Sinatra, and influenced generations of musicians in four decades as a teacher at Berklee College of Music and MIT, has died.

Pomeroy died at his Gloucester home on Saturday after a long struggle with cancer, his daughter said. He was 77.

Pomeroy played at times with Parker, Charlie Mariano, Stan Kenton, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins and others. In addition to Sinatra, he backed Tony Bennett and Sarah Vaughn.

"Herb was renowned as one of Boston's most famous musicians, not just for who he played with, but for his own bands. He was highly regarded by everyone," said Ken Pullig, the chairman of Berklee's Jazz composition department and one of Pomeroy's former students.

Pomeroy was also a "magnet" that helped draw students, Pullig said.

"When (Berklee founder) Larry Berk first hired him Herb already had quite a reputation around Boston and it gave the fledgling school some credibility. For many years he was the icon that really attracted students from all around the world."

Pomeroy taught like he played jazz -- by improvising, with no notes, no syllabus, no text books, said Larry Monroe, another former student who is now Berklee's vice president for international affairs.

"He personified the educator, the performer, the activist, everything that makes music go," Monroe said. "He literally influenced thousands and thousands of musicians."

Above all else, however, Pomeroy was a family man, said his daughter, Perry Pomeroy. He fashioned his career so he could always put family first.

"His most outstanding characteristic was his unwavering dependability," she said. "He was a constant force, and as a parent, he was very reliable, and for me as a child that was an invaluable feeling to have about a parent."

Pomeroy was also an unwavering fan of amateur sports, particularly the Gloucester High School football team, and the local Inter-Town Baseball League.

"He planned his schedule around sports and was a fixture in the stands for decades," Perry Pomeroy said.

Irving Herbert Pomeroy III was born and raised in Gloucester and began playing music as a teenager. He spent a year at Harvard before leaving to become a full-time musician. In addition to his daughter, Pomeroy leaves his wife, Dodie Gibbons; a son, Eden Pomeroy; four stepchildren; 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A memorial service is scheduled for Sept. 9 at Emmanuel Church in Boston.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES