Louisville Magazine

NOV 2016

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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36 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 11.16 In 1965, before anybody had a tape deck in their car, John had a power converter that would convert the power from his car battery to AC current, and then he had a reel-to-reel tape recorder on the floor of the front seat of his station wagon, and we would listen to music on long trips." One day in school, La Barbera's guid- ance counselor called him into his office, sat him down and told him he should be an engineer. It scared the boy to death. His teachers didn't see the connection between science and music, but it's no surprise to his brothers. Arranging and composing are the engineering of music. "John wanted to know the nuts and bolts of how everything worked," Pat says. "at's why he made such a great arranger — he always wanted to know how ev- erything worked. He used to rebuild old Model A cars." "Because of his intellect, and want- ing to know how things work, I think he looked at music that way," Joe says. "He wanted to understand how people put these big ensembles together. at's when he became more of a composer and arranger." When the boys were just teenagers, Giuseppe set them up with a camper and drove them out to New Jersey. He stayed behind while the boys took a bus into New York late at night to go to Bird- land, where they sat in the back drinking Cokes and drooling over Dizzy Gillespie. No one doubted they'd turn out to be musicians. Pat was the first saxophone major to attend Potsdam teacher's college, and La Barbera followed him there. But the academy's attitude toward jazz was toxic. Signs in practice rooms prohibited the practicing of jazz, and saxophone was considered an illegitimate instrument. When John played in the big band, they had to rehearse off campus. Frustrated, Pat transferred to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, one of the greatest music schools in the world, then the pin- nacle of jazz education. "He would come home for the holidays and talk about all these scales and advanced theory I knew nothing about," La Barbera says. So he followed Pat to Berklee. "Joe made the smart decision; he went to Berklee as a freshman," he says. With one semester left to graduate, Pat got an offer from the Buddy Rich big band and dropped out to go on tour. "at was the smartest decision he ever made," La Barbera says. So began the La Barbera dynasty. Pat went on the road with Buddy, and John followed him, joining the same band in 1968, and then, a couple of years later, the Glenn Miller orchestra. He eventually arranged the music for the Miller orchestra's In the Christmas Mood album, which went platinum. Twice. If you've heard of Buddy Rich, you've heard he was nuts. And he was. He'd throw cymbals at people, fire someone for standing the wrong way — "I think he fired me three times, altogether," La Bar- bera says. e road was a strange place, and a lot of musicians succumbed to alcoholism and drug abuse. All three La Barbera boys had been eagle scouts. When the band would get to a hotel, most of the musicians would crash out, but La Barbera would explore the town, pick through junk shops and come back with daguerreotypes and antique cameras. One night, on the bus, La Barbera was study- ing his trumpet music when he looked down and saw a dark trickle streaming down the floor. When he looked up, he realized the musician in front of him had shot up and passed out bleeding. "You're the new guy," said another musician to La Barbera. He tossed him a cloth or a shirt and said, "You clean him up." La Barbera eventually got tired of the road, and turned his attention over to composing and arranging. At the time, composers weren't taken seriously if they were also players, and La Barbera decided to give himself over to the page. Buddy Rich put out a call for arrangers, and La Barbera went to Philadelphia with his portfolio. Rich hired him on as head arranger, and together they made some of the greatest records of all time, including A Different Drummer, which includes several La Barbera arrangements. In a La Barbera piece, nobody ever gets bored. Each musician gets a line to play, something to sing that fits perfectly into the overarching harmony without losing its individuality. "My theory is melody is the new black," La Barbera says. "Melody was so passé for so long. If you had melo- dy in your piece, my God, it was a mortal sin. I'm a melodic writer; I've always written melodically." One time, Rich demanded an over- night rewrite of arrangements because he had decided he wanted singers. When La Barbera got to the recording session after an all-nighter, the singers told him they couldn't read music, so he had to teach them all their parts. When he started his family and wanted something more stable, La Barbera took a job teaching music at Cornell Universi- ty, but he wanted a more long-term gig, something that would let him really share his knowledge of arranging. Pat was teaching at a camp in En- gland around that time. One night, he was shooting pool with Mike Tracy, the director of the jazz studies department of U of L, when Tracy mentioned they were looking for faculty, especially those with an interest in arranging. Pat mentioned his brother, and Tracy got in contact with him. ere wasn't a lot of funding for the department, so Tracy went around asking lovers of jazz and donors to help put to- gether enough money to bring La Barbera to Louisville. "And when I want to get something done, I do it," Tracy says. Diego Lyra got his masters with an emphasis in jazz composition a couple years ago, studying under La Barbera. "He is very professional, and he expects a lot out of you," he says. La Barbera would give Lyra assignments that had him up all night, working. He made him compose away from the piano, Lyra's principal instrument, so he'd work out his musical ideas in his head, where his fingers couldn't tell him what to think. La "John wanted to know the nuts and bolts of how everything worked," Pat says. "at's why he made such a great arranger — he always wanted to know how everything worked. He used to rebuild old Model A cars."

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