In the world of jazz, there’s a lot of crossing over in the way of styles. Straight-ahead jazz, bebop, fusion, pop jazz, and jazz-funk are among the various iterations of this musical art form. The genre is populated by some true masters of the form going back decades. Say the word “jazz” and many people will immediately think of Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Buddy Rich, and any other number of accomplished musicians, each of whom has brought his or her signature sound to the public via their instrumental or vocal virtuosity.
Now say “jazz bass” to people in the know and, invariably, a large percentage of them will respond with the name of Abraham Laboriel. The Berklee College of Music graduate is a musician’s musician, having shared stages and studios with a virtual who’s who of musical legends. He’s also a legend himself.
A few years ago, Laboriel and some fellow musicians recorded the song “The Bass Walk” at the Evergreen Stage.
“The Bass Walk” is a song with a funky groove. It’s said that the song was inspired by a riff Laboriel played on a record during the 1970s. Since then it’s been sampled and incorporated into numerous rap songs.
Born in Mexico City, Laboriel is said to have played on 4,000 recordings and soundtracks. Initially, he studied classical guitar but later switched to bass while attending Berklee. Then he moved to Los Angeles to pursue studio work. Since then, he’s played with an extremely long list of artists, including Al Jarreau, George Benson, Andraé Crouch, Andy Summers, Barbra Streisand, Billy Cobham, Chris Isaak, Christopher Cross, Dave Grusin, Dolly Parton, Donald Fagen, Elton John, Herb Alpert, Herbie Hancock, Lalo Schifrin, and many others.
In 1980, as fusion was becoming a popular jazz form, Laboriel co-founded the fusion band Koinonia with drummer-percussionist Alex Acuña, wind player John Phillips, session-guitarist Dean Parks, drummer-percussionist Bill Maxwell, guitarist Hadley Hockensmith, and keyboard player Harlan Rogers on keyboards. With a few membership changes over the years, the band stayed together until 1991.
Following that, Laboriel, Maxwell and flutist-saxophonist Justo Almario combined their talents with those of longtime arranger/composer/sessionman, Greg Mathieson to create Open Hands, a jazz-fusion quartet based in Los Angeles.