Though relatively little known except among modern jazz cognoscenti and in jazz education circles (he was for 38 years on the Berklee College of Music's faculty), reedman/composer/arranger John La Porta boasts a most impressive--indeed, fascinating--résumé. Coming up during the big band era (most notably with Woody Herman's First Herd), La Porta was from the mid-1940s to the mid-'50s a major participant in the bebop, cool, and Third Stream movements. How many jazz players, after all, can claim to have been on a record-date front line with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, worked extensively with Lennie Tristano and Charles Mingus, and have been a featured soloist in a piece composed by Igor Stravinsky (1946's Ebony Concerto, for the Herman Orchestra)? Theme and Variations and Conceptions, the two LPs paired herein, were recorded for Fantasy between 1956 and 1958. The music, all of it with the exception of Juan Tizol's jam session perennial "Perdido" written by La Porta, melds his compositional interests in contemporary classical music, new views of the older fugal and canonical forms, and the rhythmically vital bebop idiom. These challenging, lovely, and surprise-filled pieces for ensembles ranging in size from duos to octets feature La Porta's alto saxophone and especially masterful clarinet, as well as a complement of superb, if highly underrated, players, including trumpeter Louis Mucci, baritone saxist George Barrow, and pianist Wally Cirillo.
with Louis Mucci, Sonny Russo, Larry Wilcox, George Barrow, Sol Schlinger, Wally Cirillo, Wendell Marshall, Clem DeRosa