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On the Wild Side by John La Barbera Big Band

I can truly say that without question, John La Barbera's On The Wild Side CD is one powerful exclamation of jazz music that sets this recording apart from the rest and puts this album into that special category of elite big band music. The CD is appropriately named for you will not find mellow music here. John's arrangements and his own compositions make for plenty high energy fiery material that's made to swing. La Barbera's previous professional experience as the principal composer/arranger for the Buddy Rich Orchestra really comes through in this recording loud and clear. You will hear a lot of brass and a controlled explosion of melodies guaranteed to make you move.

This CD was recorded in 2002 and became a family affair of sorts when tenor sax man, Pat La Barbera and drummer, Joe La Barbera joined their brother on this project. Accompanying this family trio of musical pros are other notable jazz lions such as Bud Shank and Kim Richmond on alto sax, trumpeters Wayne Bergeron and Clay Jenkins and Bill Cunliffe on keyboards just to name a few.

There are four original John La Barbera compositions that set the tone on this CD. "Tiger of San Pedro" is a great jumpy tune featuring a trumpet solo by Bergeron and a burning sax solo by Pat La Barbera. "Cloth of Silver" is a Basie like number tastefully set up by the trumpet of Clay Jenkins, complimented by the piano playing of Bill Cunliffe and finishes off in a crescendo of brass. My favorite of John's originals is "Cachaca Gotcha." This score is a high level wild and explosive number that highlights the sax of Kim Richmond and the drumming talents of Joe La Barbera that all comes together in an upbeat swinging catchy tune that typifies what big band jazz music is meant to sound like.

The CD starts off with a salute to Horace Silver in "Mayreh," which serves notice to the listener that the sounds you will hear from this point on, is swinging big band jazz and nothing else. After that there's "So What" a Miles Davis writing and jazz classic rearranged by La Barbera that results in a different twist to this old standard. If you remember the Beatles then you'll remember "Eleanor Rigby" though you may not recognize this jazzed up version. "Walk On The Wild Side Suite" is a bit long for my taste but nevertheless still interesting to hear. "Message from Art," a Joe La Barbera composition and tribute to Art Blakey, obviously features Joe on the drums along with a simmering tenor sax solo of Bob Shepard and trombonist Bruce Paulson all backed up by the remaining cast of wind instrumentalist that make up this great band.

On The Wild Side is one incredible statement of jazz produced by one great composer/arranger and many talented top notch musicians that gives me pause and think, what would Buddy Rich, Kenton, Basie, Ellington and Woody Herman say about the state of big band music today? I surely hope that John La Barbera is working on another new CD because people like me will always be hungry for the kind of music heard on this fantastic CD.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: John La Barbera Big Band
  • CD Title: On the Wild Side
  • Genre: Big Band / Swing
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Jazz Compass
  • Rating: Five Stars
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