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John LaPorta

At one point in time, John LaPorta looked like he was going to be one of the leading clarinetists in modern jazz. His cool tone and very advanced style (influenced by Lennie Tristano) seemed to be making him the Lee Konitz of the clarinet.

LaPorta showed great promise as a reedman, particularly for his skills as a bebop and Third Stream clarinetist, but chose to sidestep into the educator's chair. One of his first professional gigs was with Bob Chester's swing band, beginning in 1942. In '44 he joined the Herman aggregation and remained for two years, making his own imprint on what became a classic big- band sound. His taste and technique were impeccable on alto and tenor saxes and clarinet.

LaPorta moved to New York City in 1946 and was hired by pianist Lennie Tristano at the nascence of the cool-jazz movement. His career in music education began in '48 at Brooklyn's Parkway Music Institute. He also gave private instruction as he pursued his M.A. at the Manhattan School of Music. The list of artists with whom he worked was extensive: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Gunther Schuller, Herb Pomeroy, Billy Eckstine, Kenny Clarke, Lester Young, Max Roach, Hank Mobley, Bill Evans, Buddy Rich, Bill Harris, Fats Navarro, Oscar Pettiford, Helen Merrill, Neal Hefti, Johnny Mathis, and the big band Orange Then Blue. He was also impressive as a classical soloist, performing under Bernstein, Stravinsky, Stokowski and the Boston Pops.

LaPorta played with Charles Mingus for several years until the mid-1950s, appearing on classic Chazz sets like Jazzical Moods and Jazz Composers Workshop (both in 1954). The partnership was rewarding, and LaPorta made his first album as a leader for Mingus' Debut label in '54. The two men finally parted ways when Mingus began moving away from cool and Third Stream jazz into a hard-bop mode. The reedman cut three albums for Fantasy in the mid-50s and led his own group at the 1958 Newport festival.

Master's degree in hand, LaPorta joined the faculty of Berklee School of Music in 1963 and remained there for over thirty years until he retired to Florida. He wrote fifteen books on music education and over two hundred compositions, made some Music Minus One records, and assisted with Stan Kenton's jazz camps. In 1985 he returned to the recording studio to wax Alone Together (Powerhouse). His last album was Life Cycle (1999, Civil Defense).

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Album Review

John LaPorta: I Remember Woody

Read "I Remember Woody" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

The self-produced I Remember Woody was put together by educator, composer, and musician John LaPorta in honor of his former employer, the famed big band leader Woody Herman. If there ever was an independently produced recording that cried out for broader distribution, this is the one. Firmly conventional without being stodgy, traditionally swinging without being boring, I Remember Woody is a mainstream dream with a swing fan’s heart. In his liner notes, LaPorta conjures the names of Ellington, Basie, and ...

Album Review

John LaPorta: Theme and Variations

Read "Theme and Variations" reviewed by David Rickert

Despite having played with Gillespie, Parker, and Mingus during his career, John LaPorta remains a largely unknown figure. Perhaps his biggest contribution is in the study of music--he was on the faculty of Berklee for 38 years and presumably can count scores of jazz musicians as his former students. This CD, which collects two of LaPorta’s albums from the fifties (and currently the only early LaPorta music in print), has the air of academia about it, since it relies heavily ...

Album Review

John LaPorta: Life Cycle

Read "Life Cycle" reviewed by David A. Orthmann

It is unfortunate that John LaPorta’s accomplishments as jazz educator, including three decades at the Berklee College of Music, may have overshadowed his expertise as a player, especially stints with Woody Herman’s big band, and the combos of Lennie Tristano and Charles Mingus. Life Cycle, his ninth recording as a leader (or co-leader), is an assured statement by a musician with something significant to say beyond the confines of the classroom.

LaPorta composed all of the 11 cuts on the ...

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Music Industry

John LaPorta With Byrd and Clarke

John LaPorta With Byrd and Clarke

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

John LaPorta had a beautiful tone on the alto saxophone. It was warm and bluesy, and could go anywhere on a solo and sound spot on. It was “in the pocket," as they say. There was a lot of Charlie Parker in his sound, but with less urgency and impatience. Born in Philadelphia, he was something of a clarinet prodigy, playing with local bands at ages 10 and 13, and studied music at school with fellow clarinetist Buddy DeFranco. There ...


Award / Grant

JEN and Berklee join to present John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award

JEN and Berklee join to present John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award

Source: AAJ Staff

The Jazz Education Network and Berklee College of Music will collaborate to present the John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year award. The award is named after legendary jazz educator John LaPorta who served as a distinguished professor at Berklee for more than three decades prior to his death in 2004 and played a pivotal role in the earliest stage of formalized jazz education. The award will recognize an outstanding high school or elementary school educator with a focus on ...



Remembering John LaPorta

Remembering John LaPorta

Source: All About Jazz

John D. LaPorta, (b. Philadelphia, PA, April 1, 1920, - d. Sarasota, FL, May 12, 2004) a world class musician (all the reeds), arranger, composer and educator.

He was revered by musicians everywhere. During his career he played and recorded with Woody Herman, Herb Pomeroy, Kenny Clarke, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Buddy Rich, Max Roach, Fats Navarro, Oscar Pettiford, Lennie Tristano and Gunther Schuller. Classically trained, he has performed with Leonard Bernstein, Igor Stravinsky, ...



John LaPorta Dies at 84

John LaPorta Dies at 84

Source: All About Jazz

Born: April 1, 1920 in Philadelphia, PA Died: May 12, 2004 in Sarasota, FL Reedman, composer, arranger, educator

John LaPorta, a beloved music educator and veteran of Woody Herman's First Herd and Charles Mingus' cool period, died from complications of a stroke on May 12, 2004, in Sarasota, Florida. He was 84 years old.

LaPorta showed great promise as a reedman, particularly for his skills as a bebop and Third Stream clarinetist, but chose to sidestep ...




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