easily brushes aside on the third recording as leader of his own ensemble. And while "Caravan" dazzles in La Barbera's capable hands, it is merely the opening salvo in a session that smolders from end to end, clearly rivaling and and some ways even trumping his Grammy Award-nominated debut album, On the Wild Side.
One after another, La Barbera's well-framed charts tantalize the ears and quicken the heart while bringing out the very best his all-star band has to offer. After "Caravan," they comprise engaging themes by Kenny Barron
, "Trinacria" for Sicily, the La Barberas' ancestral home. Each one is a gem, as are La Barbera's other charts; there's not a lemon in the larder. In fact, it would not be implausible for one or more of them to be considered as Grammy nominees for Best Big Band Arrangement.
That is especially true of Barron's "Voyage," which scampers merrily along thanks to La Barbera's assertive chart and sharp solos by trumpeter Clay Jenkins
on Goldsby's "Forgotten But Not." Yet a third La Barbera, drummer Joe, is out front with brother Pat on "Trinacria" (another name for the island of Sicily). "Caravan" is a sturdy vehicle for trombonists Ryan Dragon
to the hermetic brass and reeds and formidable rhythm section (Cunliffe, Warrington, Serfaty and the indomitable Joe La Barbera who is impressive in any framework). A strong candidate for big-band album of the year.
Track Listing: Caravan; Voyage; Roman Notes; Atlantis; Forgotten But Not; Incompatible (Incompatibilidade de Genios); Accordin’ to Gordon; Triacria; Young Rabbits.
Personnel: John La Barbera: composer, arranger, conductor; Wayne Bergeron: trumpet; Bob O’Donnell: trumpet; Willie Murillo: trumpet; Clay Jenkins: trumpet; Brian Scanlon: alto sax, flute; Kim Richmond: alto sax; Pat La Barbera: tenor, soprano sax; Rob Lockart: tenor sax, flute; Bob Carr: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Les Benedict: trombone; Eric Hughes: trombone; Ryan Dragon: trombone; Ken Kugler: bass trombone; Bill Cunliffe: keyboards; Tom Warrington: bass; Joe La Barbera: drums; Aaron Serfaty: percussion.