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Bird's Trumpets

Matt Lavelle By

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Herb Pomeroy (1930-2007) was also hired by Parker and was captured again at the High-Hat in 1953. 23-year-old Pomeroy does the job as a sideman. He sounds slightly hyper and less assured than Gordon. Pomeroy sounds like Miles Davis with a cup mute on "Laura." On "Cool Blues," the Davis influence comes through again. Pomeroy joined the Berklee College of Music faculty in 1955 and was still there in 1991 when I attended my one semester there. Pomeroy made fun of my composition on a blues to his composition class because I used a flat five in every bar. I was 21, two years younger than he was when he played with Parker. Pomeroy reached the status of an effective sideman.

These days the general public still focuses on Parker's addiction more than his music. I've always believed in the approach Gary Giddins took, that Parker was a genius who was one of the greatest musicians in jazz despite that adversity. The more human side of his story is often lost. The tradition of mentorship was very much in effect in the bebop years, and Parker participated in his own way. As difficult as the trumpet is, playing bebop with Parker at his preferred tempos is one of the greatest technical challenges that trumpet players have faced throughout jazz history. Dizzy Gillespie remains unique as being able to enter Parker's personal space on a technical level. Miles Davis, Kenny Dorham, and Red Rodney essentially all took the Charlie Parker course on the ultimate level and graduated. Fats Navarro and Rolf Ericson where strong individuals in their own right. Parker's use of trumpet players as his front line cemented the saxophone/trumpet format that became so prevalent in jazz and remains so. The format continued into free jazz during Ornette Coleman's early recordings with Don Cherry.

I hope this study sheds light on the human aspects of Charlie Parker's music and relationship to the trumpet. Following Monk's Trumpets, I plan to finish this 3-part series with a study titled Miles Tenors, placing Miles Davis in the role of a teacher following his role as student with Parker.

Special thanks to Dr. Henry Martin, Carl Woideck, Lawrence Koch, and Chuck Haddix. Their work on Parker was essential to the research for Bird's Trumpets. The piece is dedicated to Phil Schaap.

Photo credit: "Charlie Parker and Red Rodney watching Dizzy Gillespie, New York City, 1947" by William Gottlieb
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