Pat (Pascel Emmanuel) 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, John LaPorta, Don Menza, Joe Allard, Joe Henderson, Lee Konitz, and Warne Marsh to name a few. LaBarbera also studied arranging and composition 1964-7 at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. After traveling 1967-74 as a featured soloist 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 at McMaster 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 for MusicFest Canada. LaBarbera has played a major role in the development of a generation of Canadian saxophonists. His pupils have included Ralph Bowen, Alex Dean, Kirk MacDonald, and Mike Murley to name a few. 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.
Rejoining Elvin Jones’ Jazz Machine in January 2001 for two years, Pat performed and toured North America, Britain, Europe, and Japan. Presently, he continues to write and perform with his own trio and quartet. His ballads CD Deep In A Dream with Don Thompson, Neil Swainson and Joe LaBarbera featuring lesser-known jazz standards, received both Juno and Jazz Report awards for instrumental jazz in 2000. It is available from Radioland Records at all major record stores in Canada and from www.jazzpromo.com in the United States. His CD From The Heart with George Cables, Rufus Reid, and Joe LaBarbera, features original tunes by Pat and his brother Joe, and some standards. Produced by Justin Time Records, it is available at all major record stores in Canada. Pat’s latest CD Crossing The Line was recorded at the Top O’The Senator jazz club in Toronto. It features Brian Dickinson, Neil Swainson, Joe LaBarbera, and special guest, Randy Brecker. It was released in October of 2005 by JazzCompass Records in Los Angeles and is available at jazzcompass.com.
LaBarbera has played on every major network television show including The Ed Sullivan Show & Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show several times. He has worked with the biggest entertainers including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Chick Corea, Woody Shaw, Louis Bellson, Woody Herman & McCoy Tyner.
“Pat has tremendous musical ability beyond technical facility. He has great power of concentration to detail and is totally committed with body and soul.”
– Elvin Jones