Joe La Barbera has enjoyed a long and varied career in music, a career that has taken him all over the world with some of the finest names in jazz. He is regarded by his peers as a musical drummer and a supportive accompanist. Jazz great Bill Evans summed it up best when he said that "Joe is very dedicated to playing quality music, and he's willing to make the concessions of dues toward that end. He's a top soloist and he does the right thing at the right time."
Born in Mt. Morris, New York, his first musical experiences began at home as part of the family band with his parents and two older brothers, saxophonist Pat and trumpeter and arranger/composer John La Barbera. From his father he received a solid foundation in drumming as well as lessons on clarinet and saxophone. His education continued at the Berklee College of Music in Boston where his teachers included John LaPorta, Charlie Mariano, Herb Pomeroy and the great Alan Dawson.
After Berklee and two years with the U.S. Army band at Fort Dix, New Jersey, Joe began his professional career with Woody Herman and the Thundering Herd. The Chuck Mangione Quartet followed with gigs ranging from jazz clubs with the small group to symphony halls with full orchestra. Then it was onto New York and a fruitful two-year period of freelancing with Jim Hall, Phil Woods, Art Farmer, Gary Burton, Art Pepper, John Scofield, Bob Brookmeyer and Toots Thielmans to name just a few.
In 1978 Joe was asked to join Bill Evans in what was to become a landmark trio. Along with bassist Marc Johnson, the trio grew over a two-year period to become one of Evans' finest. (see performances of My Romance, In Your Own Sweet Way and Bill's Hit Tune on YouTube). After Bill's untimely death in 1980, Joe joined pop singer Tony Bennett.
Currently residing in Los Angeles, Joe is involved in a wide range of music locally, nationally and internationally. On the local scene he is busy with his own quintet as well as sideman duties with many well known jazz artists. Recent dates in North America include performances with Bill Mays, Eddie Daniels, Randy Brecker and brother Pat LaBarbera.
During the last few years, Joe has toured Europe with Kenny Wheeler, Bassline (with Hein Van De Geyn and John Abercrombie) and the WDR Big Band. Most recently, he toured Japan with Lee Konitz, Europe with The West Coast All Stars and with Karrin Allyson, and South America with Bud Shank.
In 1999 along with Tom Warrington, Larry Koonse and Clay Jenkins, Joe created Jazz Compass, an independent recording company dedicated to the kind of creative music that has always been close to his heart. Joe has two releases on Jazz Compass, "Live" (JC1004) and "Mark Time" (JC1437) which was selected one of the top 10 2003 releases in Dr. Herb Wong's Blue Chip Jazz CD Awards. He is also heard on other Jazz Compass projects including brother John La Barbera's exciting new big band recordings, "On The Wild Side" (JC1007) and "Fantazm" (JC1011).
Since 1993, Joe has been on the faculty of California Institute For The Arts in Valencia, California. He is also a visiting artist at UNLV (Las Vegas), and a faculty member of the Bud Shank Jazz Workshop. In the past he has also served on the National Endowment For The Arts council in Washington D.C. and has been a guest at many other colleges as both performer and lecturer.
Pat LaBarbera is considered one of the finest saxophone soloists working within the framework of John Coltrane's principals. The connection was most obvious when he worked with Elvin Jones groups which began in 1975. He studied with his father Joseph LaBarbera, John LaPorta and Joe Henderson. LaBarbera became best known for his solo work with the bands of Buddy Rich (1967-1974), Louis Bellson, Woody Herman and his own groups. He moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1974 and is a member of the faculty at Humber College. A true intellectual of improvisation, he has been among the key members of the Toronto jazz scene for more than 30 years. LaBarbera has played a major role in the development of a generation of Canadian saxophonists. Rejoining Elvin Jones' Jazz Machine in January 2001 for two years, Pat performed and toured North America, Britain, Europe, and Japan. Presently, he continues to write and perform with his own trio and quartet. His ballads CD Deep In A Dream with Don Thompson, Neil Swainson and Joe LaBarbera featuring lesser-known jazz standards, received both Juno and Jazz Report awards for instrumental jazz in 2000. It is available from Radioland Records at all major record stores in Canada and from www.jazzpromo.com in the United States. His CD From The Heart with George Cables, Rufus Reid, and Joe LaBarbera, features original tunes by Pat and his brother Joe, and some standards. Produced by Justin Time Records, it is available at all major record stores in Canada. Pat's latest CD Crossing The Line was recorded at the Top O'The Senator jazz club in Toronto. It features Brian Dickinson, Neil Swainson, Joe LaBarbera, and special guest, Randy Brecker. It was released in October of 2005 by JazzCompass Records in Los Angeles and is available at jazzcompass.com.
John P. La Barbera is a Grammy® nominated composer/arranger whose writing spans many styles and genres. His works have been recorded and performed by Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Mel Torme, Chaka Khan, Harry James, Bill Watrous, and Phil Woods just to name a few. Though his major output has been in jazz, he has had works performed and recorded for symphony orchestra, string chamber orchestra, brass quintet, and other diverse ensembles. Most recently, Mr. La Barbera was chosen from among dozens of applicants to participate in the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute at UCLA. As a result, John was one of sixteen composers commissioned by the JCOI to compose new works that meld jazz and symphonic music. "Morro da Babilonia" was the resulting work and was presented by the American Composers Orchestra in New York City at Columbia University's Miller Hall. His "Drover Trilogy"ť for string orchestra and corno da caccia was recorded by the late Dr. Michael Tunnell and has recently been released on Centaur Records. John's Grammy® nominated big band CD "On The Wild Side" along with "Fantazm"ť and his latest "Caravan" on the Jazz Compass® label, have been met with tremendous artistic and commercial success and are on the way to becoming a jazz big band standards. Mr. La Barbera is a Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of Louisville's School of Music and an international clinician/lecturer whose topics range from composing/arranging to intellectual property and copyright. Among his numerous organizational affiliations are Jazz Education Network, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, NARAS, American Composers Forum, Chamber Music America, and a writer/publisher member of ASCAP since 1971.
He is a two-time recipient of The National Endowment for The Arts award for Jazz Composition and has served as a panelist for the NEA in the music category. His career has recently been profiled in â€śBebop, Swing and Bella Musica: Jazz and the Italian American Experienceâ€ť and in dozens of publications and encyclopedias. John's published works are considered standards in the field of jazz. education.