Laporta, John (D.)

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Laporta, John (D.)

Laporta, John (D.), jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, educator; b. Philadelphia, April 1, 1920. He began studying clarinet with a band teacher at age nine and later continued his education at the Mastbaum School in Philadelphia, where one of his classmates was Buddy DeFranco; he also studied classical music with Joseph Gigliotti of the Philadelphia Orch., and later with Leon Russianoff at the Manhattan School of Music. He learned jazz from the recordings of Basie, Ellington, Lester Young, and Herschel Evans. He picked up both alto and tenor sax (later he came to prefer the alto) and also learned to write for large ensembles. As a teenager he played with bands in Philadelphia. In the early 1940s he joined the Bob Chester band as lead alto; he also wrote for the band. After playing with Chester, LaPorta became a member of Woody Herman’s First Herd on third alto and some lead clarinet, but was frustrated that he did not get to solo. He continued to write, though, and was lucky enough to study with Igor Stravinsky’s assistant Alexis Aieff, who was touring with the band to conduct the Ebony Concerto. He also studied with Ernest Toch on the West coast. He then settled in N.Y. and began a significant period of study with Lennie Tristano, with whom he cut four sides in late 1947 on clarinet; he also made radio broadcasts with Gillespie and Parker. Around this time he began to focus on teaching, first at the Parkway music school and eventually in public schools on Long Island, Manhattan School of Music, and ultimately at Berklee (beginning in 1958). He maintained a rehearsal band during the late 1940s for his own compositions, was a member of the Metronome All-Star band in 1951, and was a founding member, with Charles Mingus and Teo Macero, of the Jazz Composer’s Workshop in N.Y in 1953. His association with Mingus actually began in 1951, when he appeared on several recordings on Mingus’s own Debut label. LaPorta gravitated more and more to teaching, but continued to play and record into the 1960s. He recorded for the first time in many years in 1985 for the Powerhouse label. Now retired from teaching, LaPorta lives in Fla.


Three Moods (1954); Conceptions (1956); South American Brothers (1956); Clarinet Artistry of John LaPorta (1957); Most Minor (1958); Eight Men in Search of a Drummer (1961); Alone Together (1985); Life Cycle (1999). woody herman:Wood-chopper’s Ball, Vol. 1 (1944); Northwest Passage, Vol. 2 (1945); First Herd (1945); Thundering Herds 1945-1947 (1947); Second Herd—1948 (1948). helen merrill:Complete Helen Merrill on Mercury Records (1954); Dreaming of You (1956). charles mingus:Complete Debut Recordings (1951); Jazz Experiments of Charles Mingus (1954); Moods of Mingus (1954); Jazz Composers Workshop (1954); Jazzical Moods (1954); Mingus Revisited (1960); Pre-Bird (1960). charlie parker:Bird: Complete on Verve (1946); Live Performances (1948); Essential Charlie Parker (1949); Charlie Parker with Strings: The Master Takes (1953); Confirmation: The Best of the Verve Years (1954).

—Lewis Porter