5.18.12 Joe LaBarbera Quintet featuring Walter Smith III
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.
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- photo by Michel Vasset
From a young age, Walter began taking music very seriously. “My first gig was playing at a McDonalds in Houston with another saxophone player. I took a solo on “Blue Bossa.” It was terrible. People clapped, and I figured if I could get away with that and get applause, how could I fail?”
Walter Smith III began playing the saxophone at the age of 7 in his hometown of Houston, TX. At Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, in 1998, Smith received a Clifford Brown/Stan Getz Fellowship from IAJE and NFAA; the NFAA Young Talent Award; a full tuition scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music; and a United States Presidential Scholar in the Arts medal. Walter Graduated from Berklee in 2003 with a degree in Music Education.
Walter has performed all over the world participating in numerous national and international festivals as well as famed stages in the U.S. such as Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. Smith has shared the stage and/or appeared on recordings with many jazz notables including Terence Blanchard, Roy Haynes, Christian McBride, Eric Reed, Mulgrew Miller, Joe Sample, Bob Hurst, Myron Walden, Walter Beasley, Lewis Nash, Terri Lynne-Carrington, and a host of others. To date, Walter has appeared on over 75 recordings that are released worldwide.
Walter’s debut recording as a leader was released in March of 2006 on the Fresh Sound New Talent label and features many of the brightest young jazz talents. His sophomore release, titled “Live in France”, was released in October of 2009 to critical acclaim. His most recent album, “III”, was released in September of 2010 and was the #3 best seller on itunes in the U.S. for it’s first week. It features Ambrose Akinmusire, Jason Moran, Joe Sanders, and Eric Harland.
Over the past few years, besides leading a quintet, Walter is/has been a member of several amazing groups (recording and touring) including the Terence Blanchard group, Eric Harland’s quintet, Ambrose Akinmusire’s band, Christian Scott’s group, the Sean Jones sextet, Jason Moran’s Big Bandwagon (In My Mind:Monk at Town Hall), and the Christian McBride situation band.
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- May 17, 2012 / 3:33 am
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