American jazz drummer/composer Joe LaBarbera was born on February 22, 1948. He is a very popular drummer known for his work with the trio of Bill Evans during Evan’s last years of his career. He came from a four-member band with Chuck Mangione and Joe Farrell. Furthermore, he stands as one of the most experienced jazz drummers today, having gone through different stages of the industry’s development.
Joe LaBarbera has had a wide and exciting music career. It has seen him travel around the globe with different high-profile musicians in the jazz realm. Many who have interacted with the drummer consider Joe a musical drummer and an excellent accompanist. As Bill Evans puts it, “Joe is very focused on playing great music and will do everything to achieve it.” He is also a great soloist who does the right thing at the right time.
Joe was born in New York. He was exposed to a musical environment at a very early age, as he was part of the family band. His parents and elder brothers were all supportive. His brothers, saxophonist Pat and Trumpeter/composer John La Barbera laid the perfect foundation for his musical career.
His father taught him to play the drums, clarinet, and saxophone. When he joined Berklee College of Music in Boston, he did fit in immediately are a candidate for success. He learned under John LaPorta, Charlie Mariano, Herb Pomeroy, and Alan Dawson. With such great teachers, Joe had everything he needed to have a successful career ahead.
From Berklee, he joined the US. Army band at Fort Dix, NJ, for two years. And then he was ready to begin his professional career, joining Woody Herman and the Thundering Herd. He later joined the Chuck Mangione Quartet, with which he performed a wide range of gigs ranging from small jazz clubs to larger symphony halls. He performed in a full orchestra, too, as his skills were a valuable asset to any band he got involved with. And then he moved to New York, where he enjoyed two fruitful freelancing years. He worked with Jam Hall, Phil Woods, Art Farmer, and Art Pepper, among other artists, on different projects and performances.
Joe then joined Bill Evans in 1978 to form a strong trio. They invited bassist Marc Johnson, and together they grew for two years to become a force to reckon with. Then Bill died suddenly in 1980, compelling Joe to move on and join Tony Bennet, a pop singer.
Today, Joe lives in Los Angeles, tied to a great deal of local, national, and international music. He leads his own quintet in the local arena, apart from working with many known jazz artists. He recently performed with Bill Mays, Eddie Daniels, Randy Brecker, and his kin Pat.
Joe has taken time over the past few years touring Europe with Kenny Wheeler and the WDR Big Band, among other groups. They were recently in Japan with Lee Konitz and in Europe with The West Coast All-Stars. He is a versatile drummer loved for his unique handling of the instruments.