Live Jazz: Joe LaBarbera at Vitello’s

By Tony Gieske

Joe LaBarbera

Joe Labarbera brought two tenormen to Vitello’s for his date on New Year’s Eve eve but it was nothing like Wardell Grey and Dexter Gordon: way past those birds, for one thing.  Might have been closer to Bill Perkins and Med Flory. Certainly not Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. Or even Ike Quebec and Illinois Jacquet.

Those were all yesterday’s listener supplicants, dancers to a different drummer.

Bob Sheppard

And you couldn’t get much more today than Bob Sheppard and Rob Lockart, who asked no quarter and gave none. Talk about a dance to the music of time!  Both these guys jumped into the chords like Esther Williams cavorting in a freshly filled pool, fearlessly, untiringly and delectibly.

Rob Lockart

Lockart was a little less sanded down than Sheppard, who gleamed with wit and wisdom. Lockart was grainier and hard-pressed. Both switched to soprano for deeply felt ballads, which were no less moving than their tenor saxophone work on that kind of material.

But mainly they worked out on the writings of Labarbera. These were freshly imagined chordal sequences, not exactly songlike — more steeplechaselike.

The thing I like about Labarbera’s drum work is his exactitude. He doesn’t crowd but he never lays back. He stays right there with the soloist and he seems to know exactly where the guy, not to mention the girl singer, is headed.

Tom Warrington

His rapport powers were challenged but little when his old friend Bill Cunliffe guested richly and enjoyably on piano.  The pianist who actually had the job, John Campbell, served up his own portion, just as tasty as the others.

The bassist Tom Warrington proved equal to the leader in the rapport business, and he is not to be taken for granted in the creativity of his solo duties.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  To read and see more of Tony’s essays and photos at his personal web site click HERE

3 thoughts on “Live Jazz: Joe LaBarbera at Vitello’s

  1. Tony…That’s a lovely write up for a sublime night of music…But what about John Campbell? He was the piano player on the gig and his playing with the band absolutely gorgeous.


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