Herb Wong, an academic scientist who became prominent as a jazz critic, record company executive and festival producer, died this week. A PhD in Zoology, he was a native of northern California’s Bay Area. Wong continued to follow his boyhood enthusiasm for jazz as he developed an academic career, teaching at the University of California at Berkelely and Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. A gentle man with infectious enthusiasm for all of his interests, Wong taught science, administered university departments and developed jazz studies courses.
In addition, he produced the Palo Alto Jazz Festival, designed a jazz oral history exhibit for the Smithsonian Institution and in the course of his career headed two jazz record companies, Blackhawk and Palo Alto. He was also a disc jockey with the Bay Area radio station KJAZ-FM. In addition, he wrote scores of liner essays for albums. Internment will be at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California. Services are yet to be announced. Herb Wong was 88.
Herb was notably proud of a 1984 Phil Woods Quintet album that he produced for his Blackhawk label. It was called Heaven after the Duke Ellington title tune and featured Woods, alto saxophone; Tom Harrell, trumpet; Hal Galper, piano; Steve Gilmore, bass; and Bill Goodwin, drums.
Herb Wong, RIP