The La Barbera Brothers: Jazz DNA
JLa B: Well, Nick as you know full well, I took two years off from big band writing after the Fantazm album to compose a suite for euphonium and symphony orchestra. It is dedicated to my father, Joe La Barbera who gave us our musical training and a head start in the business. He learned to play the euphonium at Father Baker's orphanage in Lackawanna, NY and from there he learned almost all the instruments. He was our first teacher. This is something I've had in mind since 1988 and I finally got around to it. However, my brain wasn't on hold for that time period and I had a lot of ideas hatching. So when I got back to the big band it was all out scoring.
AAJ: What was the recording situation like? Who was the engineer?
JLa B: Tally Sherwood has done almost all of the Jazz Compass projects and all of my CDs. He's not only an excellent engineer, he's also a musician and can read scores. We recorded at EastWest studios in LA. It has an 80-channel Neve board that's bigger than most NYC apartments. As you can hear on the CD, the sound is excellent.
AAJ: Who was on the session?
JLa B: Same as the Japan personnel but Wayne Bergeron played lead trumpet, Les Benedict played lead bone, and Bill Cunliffe played keyboards.
AAJ: It's coming off of the Grammy-nominated Walk on the Wild Side CD?
JLa B: No, Fantazm came after Wild Side.
AAJ: What was your compositional approach on the album overall?
JLa B: You know, at first it started to be kind of a concept album; I had all of these destination and travel titles: "Caravan," "Atlantis," "Voyage," "Trinacria," but I didn't want to put myself in a corner and so it worked out to be more of a high power or energeticno balladsrecording than I had originally envisioned. These things seem to have a life of their own.
AAJ: How has your writing style changed if at allsince Buddy Rich, DIVA, et al.?
JLa B: I think the main thing is that I'm writing for myself not another leader. With Buddy, Woody, Basie, Watrous, etc., the job was to satisfy the leader and especially the leader's audience. Even though Buddy didn't have one fixed style like the Basie band, there still were certain things he and his audience expected. Writing for myself forced me to look inside to see what I really heard. Also, as I learned from Bill Holman, as you mature you become your best editor and clutter and redundancy never make it to the page.
AAJ: What are the tunes on the album?
JLa B: Here's the list: "Caravan" (Juan Tizol / Duke Ellington), "Voyage" (Kenny Barron), "Roman Notes" (John La Barbera), "Atlantis" (McCoy Tyner), "Forgotten But Not" (John Goldsby), "Incompatible" (Incompatibilidade De Genios) (Jao Bosco), "Accordin' to Gordon" (John La Barbera), "Trinacria" (John La Barbera) and "Young Rabbits" (Wayne Henderson).
AAJ: Gordon Goodwin told me he likes to "challenge" Wayne Bergeron, et al. How did you "challenge" the "Suspects?"
JLa B: This being the third CD with these guys, I pretty much knew what they could do, so I pulled out all the stops. As for WB, just listen to "Voyage," "Gordon," and "Atlantis." As a trumpet player, I wouldn't want to even look at those notes.
AAJ: What's the anticipated release date?
JLa B: The release date is January 21, 2014 on the Jazz Compass label and distributed by City Hall. New CDs are always released on a Tuesdaywish I knew why. We anticipate a CD release party in LA around the 18th of January.
AAJ: Any chance of taking the band out on a U.S. or Regional tour?
JLa B: Actually I'm in talks to secure some of the summer festivals coming up. Curtis Fuller has agreed to be a featured soloist with us and I'm working on arrangements of some of his originals.
AAJ: OK, where do you plan to put your Grammy? This was a pleasure. Thank you, John.
JLa B: Not going to touch that one. Thanks, Nick.