Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
La Barbera, John (Phillip)
La Barbera, John (Phillip), composer, trumpeter; b. Warsaw, NY, 10 November 1945. He was raised in and lived in Mt. Morris, NY all his life until he went on the road with Buddy Rich. Mt. Morris had no hospital so his brothers and himself were born out of town. It is very important to them that Mt. Morris be listed as their home town and nurturing village. La Barbera started playing cornet when he was five years old. At the age of seven he was playing gigs with his parents and brothers Pat and Joe in the La Barbera Family Band. He studied at the S.U.N.Y at Potsdam, Berklee College, Eastman School of Music. Private studies with Rayburn Wright contributed to his love of writing and strengthened his skills for a career in composition and arranging. He received additional music education at Crane School of Music, and Eastman School of Music Arrangers Workshops. His principal arranging teacher was Ted Pease, and he also studied privately with Rayburn Wright and Jack End. Studied trumpet with Joseph La Barbera, Gordon Mathie, Ray Koetweka, and Carmine Caruso.
By the late sixties John was playing trumpet and touring the world in the great Buddy Rich Orchestra. This was the beginning of his nineteen-year association with Buddy as his principal arranger. He went on to play and write for many great big bands and is now one of the most respected composer/arrangers in the music field. His works have been recorded and performed by Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Mel Tormé, Chaka Khan, Harry James, Bill Watrous, Bill Perkins, Al Cohn and Phil Woods just to name a few. As co-producer and arranger for The Glenn Miller Orchestra Christmas recordings (In The Christmas Mood I & II) John has received Gold & Platinum Records. La Barbera is also a co-founder of the internationally acclaimed all women big band, DIVA- No Man's Band.
In addition to his professional writing career, John is actively involved in the field of music education. La Barbera is the former Director of Jazz Ensembles at Cornell University (1988-1991) and is now an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Louisville where he has implemented courses in Jazz, Music Industry, and MIDI/Computer techniques in music. Since 1996, he's also present on the faculty of the Skidmore Summer Jazz Institute, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY. As Jazz Editor of the International Trumpet Guild, La Barbera's interviews with the world's leading jazz trumpet artists are a regular feature of the ITG Journal. John has been an active member of the International Association of Jazz Educators for 20 years and writer/publisher member of ASCAP since 1970. La Barbera is also active as a clinician and lecturer in colleges and high schools throughout the U.S. and abroad. La Barbera is a two-time recipient of The National Endowment for The Arts award for Jazz Composition and his career has been profiled in dozens of publications and encyclopedias. John's published works distributed by Kendor, Hal Leonard, Warner Brothers, Sierra Music, C.L. Barnhouse, Educational Programs Publications, William Allen Music, and Arrangers Publications are considered standards in the field of jazz education. He's led groups of his own, including the John La Barbera All Star Big Band featuring alumnae of the bands of Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Chuck Mangione, Maynard Ferguson. He works infrequently doing concerts for fund raising and choice club dates.
Important associations with other leaders: played trumpet with Buddy Rich and eventually became principal arranger (and friend, yes, friend) for the Buddy Rich Band for 19 years. It is documented by Doug Meriwether in his biography "Buddy Rich, Mr., I Am The Band" (Hal Leonard) that La Barbera contributed more works to The Buddy Rich library than any other writer in his big band career. He also played trumpet and piano on the road with Buddy DeFranco and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Composed and arranged for the band for three years. He's the co-founder and original musical director of Diva-No Man's Band in 1993 with Stanley Kay and Sherrie Maricle. Responsible for the bulk of the music performed in its early career. He's arranger for Bill Watrous' First Manhattan Wildlife Refuge big band, specifically with producer John Hammond and Bill's two albums with Columbia Records. He's co-founder and principal arranger of the Lin Biviano Big Band.
Buddy Rich Band: A Piece of the Road Suite (1971), Dancing Men (1971), Best Coast (1972); Bill Watrous/Manhattan Wildlife Refuge: Tiger of San Pedro (1975); Woody Herman: Toothless Grin (1975); Buddy Rich: Backwoods Sideman (1974)
Most Notable Arrangements:
Buddy Rich: Wave (1972), God Bless The Child (1972), Cottontail (1984); Bill Watrous: Spain (1974)
Major Biographical References in "Buddy Rich, His Life & Travels" by Doug Meriwether Jr. & Clarence Heinz
Biographical Mention and Quotes in "Madame Jazz" by Leslie Gourse
Biographical Mention in "Traps the Drum Wonder" the Life of Buddy Rich by
Mel Torme' Oxford University Press
Biographical Mention and Quotes in "Drummin' Men" by Burt Korall Schirmer Books
Biographical Sketches & Discography of Work for Buddy Rich
Documented in "We Don't Play Requests" by Doug Meriwether Jr.