Issue April 15, 2014

Caravan

The John La Barbera Big Band
JAZZ COMPASS

Many big bands embrace “more is more” with flashy showpieces: not this one. Arranger/bandleader John La Barbera stays sharply focused, enhancing rather than overwhelming their classic jazz combo sound with the larger ensemble of first-call West Coast musicians. The interplay of drummer brother Joe’s working quintet (including saxophonist brother Pat) is at the core of John’s third album. From the Horace Silver-like introduction by pianist Bill Cunliffe on Duke Ellington’s title track to hard-swinging closer “The Young Rabbits” (from the early Jazz Crusaders’ book), the band breathes with warmth and class. Pat’s soloing on McCoy Tyner’s “Atlantis” is a highlight. John’s own compositions display diverse influences, including hard-charging “Accordin’ to Gordon” and fast-paced “Trinacria.” The clean recording shows off the individual sounds within the 17-piece ensemble. Sophisticated and swinging jazz for the 21st century.