walking on air
Herb Pomeroy and Donna Byrne
WALKING ON AIR
Arbors Records ARCD 19176
walking on air
Herb Pomeroy and Donna Byrne have worked together in clubs and concerts for the past ten years, and this whole group previously assembled on record five years ago. The reunion proves artistically worthwhile.
Donna has a natural jazz feel and is refreshingly free of undue histrionics or affectation. She sails happily and effortlessly through up-tempo numbers like It's a Wonderful World, topped and tailed with Doxy, the tune Sonny Rollins wrote on the same sequence, and Just One of Those Things, in which a touch of Ella comes through. This ballads Ill Wind and I Have Dreamed are outstanding performances, much enhanced by Dave McKenna's superbly measured piano accompaniments; the rest of the rhythm section sits these out, and so, on I have Dreamed, does Herb. Donna and Dave work wonders with this Rodgers-Hammerstein song from "The King and I."
Pomeroy, erstwhile Kenton and Hampton sideman and leader of his own big band, is also an experienced jazz educator with the Berklee College of Music. His qualifications of a thorough grasp of the art of jazz improvisation and mastery of his instruments are well in evidence on this album. The same qualities inform the work of Sargent and McKenna, the latter's solo being of a consistently ear-catching inventiveness.
Marshall Wood, Donna's husband and producer of the album, modestly allows himself only two solos -- in Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me and Billy Strayhorn's The Intimacy of the Blues -- plus a brief walking one in the old Basie number (attributed to Buck Clayton) Taps Miller. Gwin, a classically trained percussionist, solos only in a sequence of fours in Lullaby In Rhythm. Both provide firm but unobtrusive support.
The programme contains a variety of . . . devised by Pomeroy and Wood. Of the five purely instrumental tracks, I like best Taps Miller and Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me, which has deft plunger work from Herb. Take The A Train goes at the same slow temp as the Glenn Miller version but without the sweetness.
The entire set is a model of creative musicianship and good taste.
walking on air
Hard to believe that it's been five years since Herb, Donna, and Co. recorded Let's Face the Music and Dance, but it has. This musical reunion is an obvious joy for them, and for us as well. Donna, a jazz vocalist at the top of her game, displays her extraordinary sense of melody, lyric, and improvisation.
The collaboration of voice and horn expanded by Dave McKenna's piano, Gray Sargent's guitar, Marshall Wood's bass, and Jim Gwin's percussion are a fine example of the oneness that great artists can create when they know and understand each other's musical minds. Donna once told me that playing with Dave was an absolute joy -- " like he was inside of your head" -- in this case they're all in there together. Come along for the ride -- you're sure to enjoy it.
This is a wondrous display of Herb's, Dave's Gray's and Marshall's skills on their bluesy rendition of Summertime. And if you're a Herb Pomeroy groupie, as I am, you'll flip over his Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me and "A" Train.
WALKING ON AIR
This is a record for mature people who enjoy hearing quality tunes played and sung by experienced jazzmen whose names are note likely to be forgotten by next month.
Trumpeter Pomeroy and pianist Dave McKenna are good examples of this, but so also is the less familiar Donna Byrne, one of the best singers of jazz-friendly standards currently on the scene, one who approaches her lyrics with both intelligence and swinging time, and without distorting syllabic emphasis or resorting to stagey histrionics to get her meanings across.
Herb's horn is on the mark throughout, with the dry lyricism and sardonic wit that characterized so much of "Sweets" Edison's playing behind Billie during the '50s, while Gray Sargent's, Guitar touches what bases McKenna leaves open. Quite obviously Marshall Wood, who has the good fortune to be Donna's husband, and drummer Jim Gwin keep their treble clef companions as happy as they are themselves.
Following a medley of Doxy and It's A Wonderful World, we hear Lullaby in Rhythm, Ill Wind, Taps Miller, Take The A Train, Just One Of Those Things, No More, Summertime, Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me, Your Red Wagon, I Have Dreamed, and The Intimacy Of The Blues. Donna's vocals are heard on seven of the 12 tunes.
Green Mountain Jazz Messenger
WALKING ON AIR
This enjoyable 1997 release on Arbors Records features the stellar horn playing of Herb Pomeroy and the exuberant vocals of Donna Byrne, both familiar names in the Boston jazz world. Here they join with New England's Dave McKenna on piano, Gray Sargent, guitar, Marshall Wood on bass and Jim Gwin, drums, to produce a really fine and seamless session of classics and standards.
Listeners will enjoy the lovely renditions of favorites like Take The A Train (with a stunningly lazy, sweet intro by Herb), Summertime, and Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me, albeit these are sans Donna. They are terrific instrumental versions.
In addition, Byrne and Pomeroy together do some special work with Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen's Ill Wind and Rodgers and Hammerstein's I Have Dreamed. Another really nice track is the upbeat Just One Of Those Things, by Cole Porter, which is treated with zing and spice by Donna and this first-rate rhythm section. Herb's laying here is offered like commentary peppered in between a superb call and response going on with Gray's guitar and McKenna's piano - it's delightful!
Byrne's style on the straight ahead No More is typical of what makes her a fine vocalist: strength, clarity, excellent intonation and clear pronunciation of lyrics delivered with feeling and meaning.
My favorite track on the album, hands down, is Red Wagon. Here a bluesy guitar and sexy songstress make you sit up and take notice! Then there's Herb taking it out in his fine solo in the center. Gwin is really an excellent drummer, he's quite noticeable on this cut. And the blues riffs really work here, as Donna carries it all off with pizzazz. The closer, an instrumental take on Billy Strayhorn's The Intimacy Of The Blues, is a sweet treat to end with.
What a joy this disc is! I hope we hear more soon from Herb, a consummate musician (he played with Charlie Parker, Stan Kenton, Lionel Hampton) who spent more years teaching than recording. Now that he's retired from 40+ years at Berklee, he may have more time to record. He and Byrne make a great team. Good for Arbors, a fine jazz label, for putting out this one!
The Valley News
September 4, 1997
WALKING ON AIR
Inspired by Louis Armstrong, Herb Pomeroy took the trumpet as his instrument, and by age 25 had performed with Charlie Parker and toured with Stan Kenton and Lionel Hampton, for whom he arranged and played in his band.
Boston-bred singer Donna Byrne, who has twice toured Hawaii with the Benny Goodman tribute band and performed in such noted New York City spots as Rainbow & Stars and The Blue Note, is heard on seven songs, including Lullaby in Rhythm, Ill Wind, Just One Of Those Things, and I Have Dreamed.
Besides Herb Pomeroy on trumpet and flugelhorn, the combo includes the wonderful Dave McKenna, piano; Gray Sargent, guitar; Marshall Wood, bass; and Jim Gwin, drums.