Followup: LaPorta & Reilly At Newport

After he saw the Gerry Mulligan birthday post below, Jack Reilly sent the following update on that day at Newport in 1958.

I played after the Mulligan set, with the John LaPorta Quartet: Dick Carter, bass; Charlie Perry; drums; me, piano; and LaPorta, alto sax. Jimmy Giuffre’s new pianoless trio also played that same day, but after our set,

We played 2 of my tunes, DECIDED and SEARCHING, and one of John’s originals, THE MOST MINOR and the standard DARN THAT DREAM. Unfortunately we were left out of the film. However, we went into the recording studios in December, 1958, and recorded the above set of tunes plus 4 more. It was released on Everest Records. You may find the CD reissue on Amazon or in a Japanese record store.

John was an amazing musician, arranger and improvisor and later becameBerklee College of Music’s superstar teacher. His biography, Playing It By Ear, is a good read with lots of insights into the jazz world. There’s a special chapter devoted only to the quartet. John was proud of the quartet as I was for being chosen for the piano chair.

At 26, this was my official debut into the jazz world. I wasn’t nervous at all!!

DIck Carter, blind by age nine, was our harmonic foundation. I’m sure Bill Crow remembers him and his huge, warm, booming bass sound. Charlie Perry was a flawless technician and time-keeper. He cooked like mad!

Maybe Bert Stern has a private video of our set?

The LaPorta album, titled The Most Minor, is on a Fresh Sound CD reissue. Here is one track from it.

John LaPorta was a member of Woody Herman’s First Herd and recorded with Lennie Tristano, Charles Mingus and Helen Merrill. He soloed on clarinet on Herman’s recording of Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto and was jazz soloist for the New York Philharmonic’s 1958 performance of Teo Macero’s Fusion. He died in 2004 at the age of 84.

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  1. says

    I well remember LaPorta’s bald head, coke-bottle glasses, hipster lean and baggy suits just this side of scruffy, walking down the narrow corridors of the old Berklee in 1970. When I first got there, I didn’t know his pedigree and when I learned what it was, I was a little happier to be at Berklee, which was a rough time for this mediocre trumpet player. LaPorta was a very creative musician, as were all those guys he made new music with in the 50’s.

  2. says

    Small world, in a way. I hosted a screening of Jazz on a Summer’s Day last night in Amherst, one in a series I’ve presented in recent years. And I blogged about Bert Stern’s film yesterday. Stern reported in 1999 that he’d shot over 80,000 feet of footage, and the final cut used about 8,000. He said the rest is stored “in a school in Harlem,” and speculated on the possibility of Part II, but now a dozen years later nothing’s appeared.

    Last time I saw John LaPorta was in the late ’90’s on Cape Cod where he played a Sunday evening concert in a church in Harwich. Dave McKenna and Lou Colombo were with him, and alas with Lou’s recent death in a Florida car crash, they’ve all passed. LaPorta was one of the first horn players I came to appreciate through his early work with Mingus, which was also on Everest LP’s. This 1958 session comes as an unexpected bonus not only for him but the equally enjoyable Jack Reilly. Thanks for the tip and the link.

    • says

      I forgot to mention one near disaster ( musically i.e.), that happened during the quartet’s set. Dick Carter’s bass somehow slipped from his grip and landed on the stage in front of John, but undamaged. The stage crew reacted swiftly and cautiously handed the bass to Carter. (Dick was blind from birth). The remaining trio kept playing, never missing a beat or a chord change. Dick’s giant ears were keeping track of the tune’s harmony and jumped in on the correct chord and correct beat!

      One other note of irony, for me, Carter and Perry: George Wein called LaPorta in N.Y. 2-3 weeks after the festival to offer him (the quartet), a contract to book us throughout the US and Europe to begin in September of 1958! John had also been offered a full-time teaching position at the Berklee School of Jazz beginning in September of 1958. He chose Berklee. And as they say, the rest is history.

      I felt he choose the teaching position because it gave him, his wife, Ginny, and 4 children, the security of a steady monthly salary vs. life on the road. He said he never regretted the decision. Berlee’s students gained access to a master musician who went on to become a master teacher, revered world wide.