John La Barbera Big Band: Walk on the Wild Side Suite


Walk on the Wild Side Suite


John La Barbera Big Band


On the Wild Side (Jazz Compass JC1007 )

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John La Barbera (bandleader), Brian Scanlon (soprano sax), Pat La Barbera (tenor sax), Joe La Barbera (drums),

Tom Ranier (keyboards), Tom Warrington (bass)


Composed by Elmer Bernstein. Arranged by John La Barbera


Recorded: Glendora, CA, 2002


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

Maybe it's the genes, or growing up in a musically nurturing upstate New York family, or both; whatever the case, the brothers La Barbera have founded a formidable jazz dynasty. Celebrated trumpeter/arranger/ composer/bandleader/educator John La Barbera made his mark with Buddy Rich, where he survived the gauntlet as a member of the trumpet section to eventually become Buddy's principal composer and arranger, an association that would last for 19 years. Additionally, his works have been recorded by Woody Herman, Dizzy Gillespie, Mel Tormé and Phil Woods, among others. His older brother Pat, best known for his nearly three decades of tenor work with Elvin Jones, also performed with Buddy, as well as a range of notables from Woody Herman to Santana. Younger brother Joe forged his reputation on drums with Bill Evans, Chuck Mangione, Art Farmer and Tony Bennett.

Walk on the Wild Side, one of Elmer Bernstein's greatest soundtracks, gave life to the gritty emotion and hard-luck urban struggle of Nelson Algren's 1956 novel, brought to the screen in 1962 by director Edward Dmytryk. Here John La Barbera's electrifying arrangement manages to shed the stiff orchestral baggage of the original film score. After a short bass ostinato, the band swings hard into the now-familiar head, setting the stage for Pat La Barbera's throaty tenor. Growling and threatening, his solo is kicked along by brother Joe's tight drum work and a screaming horn section in a scorching 6/8 romp. As the band transitions into the suite's dreamy, plaintive middle sections entitled "Night Song" and "Rejected," Brian Scanlon's soprano sax poignantly conjures the lament of Algren's "po' buckra" white trash lost in a neon wilderness.

All in all, John La Barbera's "Walk on the Wild Side" is a seamless, volatile stroll down Perdido Street, a steamy detour on the way to Perdition. It is also a reminder of a time not so long ago, when big band jazz ruled the American film soundscape.

Reviewer: Bill Barnes

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  • 1 Chicago Attorney // Dec 19, 2008 at 03:50 PM
    I've always been an admirer of John's charts. I'm going to check out this CD. I can't believe I missed this one. then again, big band cd's don't get much promotion. thanks for posting!
  • 2 Telecom Consultant // Apr 16, 2009 at 02:44 PM
    This CD is a good one. I remember seeing John play with Buddy's band and he is a terrific player and writer. Its a real musical family, talent coming out of their ears. Thanks for the nice review.