Tommy LaBella

Saxophonist/Composer

Tommy LaBella, a native of Neptune, New Jersey, has been a notable presence on the Jersey Shore and national music scene since 1974, as a versatile and talented saxophone player.  LaBella’s versatility is also evident in the variety of musicians and bands he has put together and performed with including: Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Bobby Bandiera, Glen Burtnick, 10,000 Maniacs, Charles Earland, Billy Preston and Sam Moore.   From blues, jazz, R&B to rock & roll, his musical capabilities enable him to bring his signature sound to any musical situation.  It’s this ability coupled with a commanding stage presence that makes him one of New Jersey’s most sought after saxophonists.

In addition to his reputation as a premier instrumentalist, LaBella is also an accomplished composer.  His songwriting versatility mirrors his playing.  Whether he’s writing moving vocal ballads or groove-based smooth jazz, his songs are sincere, heartfelt – and always soulful.

For over ten years, LaBella has helped to cultivate the next generation of musicians through his instruction of children and young adults. His reputation as a teacher stands testament to his true dedication to his students as well as his intrinsic ability to inspire them and develop their talents.

LaBella receives inspiration from a mixture of influences including John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, David Sanborn and Michael Brecker.  He studied under Frank Foster, former leader of The Count Basie Orchestra, and Joe Allard, both of whom have inspired his playing and songwriting.

National/World Performance Highlights

  • LaBella currently plays with Jon Bon Jovi and the Kings of Suburbia, Billy Hector, The Big Joe Henry Variety Show, The Bobby Bandiera Band, Glen Burtnick’s Summer of Love, Max Weinberg and Billy Lawlor

  • In the 1980’s he established a musical relationship with notable organist the late Charles Earland, “The Mighty Burner.”  Over the ten years they worked together, LaBella shared the stage with jazz greats Freddie Hubbard, George Benson, Roy Haines and Grover Washington, Jr., and performed on a variety of stages including The Blue Note, The Apollo Theater, Symphony Hall in Baltimore, Seventh Avenue South and the Village Gate.  The Earland Group also opened for Nancy Wilson at the First Annual Bahamas Jazz Festival.

  • LaBella has played with R&B soul giants Sam Moore and Frankie Lee. 

  • He performed at Lee Atwater’s celebration for Young Americans as part of the 1989 Inaugural festivities.  The line up of stars included Sam Moore of “Sam and Dave,” Joe Cocker, Dr. John, Eddie Floyd, Billy Preston, Bo Diddly and Ron Wood.

  • LaBella was featured as the opening act for the Monmouth County Arts Council’s presentation of the World Saxophone Quartet at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey. 

  • Opened for Wynton Marsalis, Stanley Jordan and Spyro Gyra at the Count Basie Theater. 

  • When keyboard player Danny Federici of Bruce Springsteen’s “E Street Band” formed his own “Stone Hill Band,”  LaBella was called to join the band with other noted Jersey Shore musicians including Tico Torres of Bon Jovi.

  • In June of 1990, LaBella toured with Sam Moore and Billy Preston throughout Italy. 

  • In May 1991, he backed Booker T and the MG’s, Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, Sam Moore and Phil Collins on a television special entitled “An American Saturday Night,” which was broadcast live on the ABC television network from the “Lone Star Café” in New York.

  • During 1992 and 1993, LaBella toured throughout the United States and Canada with 10,000 Maniacs.  During that time, he performed with them at the 1993 New Year’s Eve MTV show.  They also performed at the MTV Inaugural Ball, which was recorded live and on CD.  During the Maniacs’ tours, they performed on “The Jay Leno Show,” “Arsenio Hall Show,” and “The Today Show.”  LaBella also performed live with 10,000 Maniacs on a special issue CD with Michael Stipe of “R.E.M.” 

  • In 1995, Tommy performed with Jose Feliciano at several renowned clubs.

  • World Party called upon LaBella during 1997 to perform at concerts and on a television special on PBS entitled “Live on 57th”.

  • In the fall of 1998, Shin Hyo Bum, who at the time was the number one artist in Korea with a number one chart topping record, came to America to do her first concert.  She hired LaBella to play soprano, alto and tenor saxophones.

  • In addition, he played with Rob Paparozzi and the Hudson River Rats with the legendary Bernard “Pretty” Purdie on drums (the world’s most recorded R&B drummer).

In 2007, LaBella performed at a Labor Day party at the East Hampton home of Jon Bon Jovi which the New York Daily News dubbed “a summit of the rock gods”.  LaBella was in the company of an impressive guest list that night.  Even more impressive was the list of performers with whom LaBella shared the stage, which included Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Jimmy Buffet, Roger Waters and Sir Paul McCartney

Local Performance Highlights

  • LaBella was a member of the Stone Pony house band in the 1980’s, and frequently played with guests Bruce Springsteen and South Side Johnny.

  • In the early 1980’s, he formed his own jazz quartet and started performing regularly at DeRosa’s, a stage he shared with the late Tal Farlow on more than one occasion. 

  • At the end of the summer of 1998, Coretta Scott King spoke at the Long Branch Hilton in Long Branch, New Jersey.  LaBella was hired by the sponsor of this event and asked to contract the band and play alto and tenor saxophones.

  • He also played in a series of performances with Bobby Bandiera at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey and at various other theaters throughout the state as part of Jersey Shore Rock and Blues Band.  More recently, LaBella has performed with Bandiera for various fundraisers along with Bruce Springsteen.

  • At home at the Jersey Shore, he plays with some of the hottest bands in New Jersey, including Labamba’s Big Band which features Richie Rosenberg of “South Side Johnny and the Jukes” and Mark Pender – both of whom played on the “Conan O’Brien Show.”

  • The Jazz Lobsters, a highly regarded local big band, frequently call on LaBella to round out their horn section.  The band backed Lena Prima during a tribute concert to her father – the late, great Louis Prima. 

  • Another musical highlight was when LaBella, a lifelong baseball fan, was asked to play the national anthem at Waterfront Park in Trenton for the AA affiliated Yankee team.

  • Since its opening in 2010, LaBella has performed regularly at Chico’s House of Jazz in Asbury Park, New Jersey.  He is a mainstay at the club’s weekly Wednesday night Jam Session which has become a meeting place for many of New Jersey’s premier jazz musicians.  In addition, LaBella routinely performs with various bands at Chico’s including the house band along with Chico Rouse.

Recordings

  • LaBella’s soulful colorings are captured on vinyl on the title track of Charles Earland’s CBS release entitled ”Street Themes.”  He’s also recorded with Pizzazz, Blue Lovett (vocalist for the Manhattans) and Billy Hector and The Fairlanes, a popular New Jersey blues band.

  • Recorded a live album at the Peretta Soul Festival in Italy with Sam Moore and Billy Preston.

  • In the late 1990’s, LaBella was part of a recording for Jay-Z’s production company.

Composer

  • LaBella recorded one of his originals with Bernard Purdie.

  • In the world music scene, LaBella has an affiliation with Najma Akhtar who has recorded a demo of one of LaBella’s original compositions.

Teacher/Instructor

  • Former music teacher at Lakewood Prep School (formerly Monmouth Academy) in Howell, New Jersey. 

  • He also offers private music lessons to adults and children.

Charitable Work

  • Since its inception in 1993, LaBella has played with Holiday Express, a notable charity organization that uses music during the holidays to raise the spirits of those less fortunate.  As a musical member of this all-volunteer group, which is comprised of some of the area’s finest musicians, he’s shared the Meadowlands’ stage with Bruce Springsteen, performed on WPLJ radio with Rob Thomas of Match Box 20, and played for three consecutive years at the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting extravaganza, which was broadcast “live” on NBC.

DoReMusic

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