Pat LaBarbera (saxophonist, teacher, composer) was born in Mt. Morris, NY, in 1944. His first teacher was his father, Joseph, a clarinetist. His brothers are also noted jazz musicians: Joe, a drummer, and John, an arranger and composer. LaBarbera’s other teachers included Joe Viola, Don Menza, and Joe Allard (saxophone), Joe Henderson, Lee Konitz, and Warne Marsh (improvisation), and Bernie Piltch (flute). LaBarbera also studied arranging and composition 1964-7 at the Berklee College of Music, Boston. After travelling 1967-74 as a featured soloist (tenor saxophone) with the Buddy Rich Big Band, he made his home in 1974 in Toronto, where he has worked in local jazz clubs, big bands, and studio orchestras. In 1975 he joined the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, maintaining the association (with intermittent breaks) through the 1980s. He has toured Europe and Japan with both Rich and Jones, and South America with Jones.
LaBarbera began teaching at Humber College in 1976, at York University in 1985, and at the University of Toronto in 1986. He has also taught privately, at the Banff SFA Jazz Workshop 1977-80 and 1987-8, and atMcMaster University 1986-8. In 1977 he became an instructor at the Jamey Abersold summer jazz camps held on US university campuses and in the late 1980s taught at similar camps in Canada. He has also served widely as a clinician and adjudicator – eg, for MusicFest Canada. LaBarbera has played a major role in the development of a generation of Canadian saxophonists. His pupils have included Ron Allen, Rob Bonisolo, Ralph Bowen, Alex Dean, Vern Dorge, Ken Fornetran, Jeff Johnson, Kirk MacDonald, Mike Murley, Mike Sim, Roy Styffe, and Perry White. He wrote a monthly woodwind instruction column 1980-4 for Canadian Musician.
His own playing is in the style of John Coltrane, extended by an encyclopaedic knowledge of improvisational theory and personalized by a certain lyrical sensibility. LaBarbera’s quartet (with the pianist George McFetridge and others) has appeared frequently in Toronto clubs, where he has also been heard with the trumpeter Sam Noto and alongside such visiting US musicians as Red Rodney and Chet Baker. In 1989 he toured in Ireland at the head of the Irish quartet Four in One. Several of his compositions (eg, Necessary Evil, October’s Child, Minor Blues, Familiar Ground) have been recorded by Elvin Jones.
“In A Sentimental Mood” with Botos Brothers