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Pete La Roca is another unknown great who played with all the greats. Here’s one of a very few that he recorded as a leader and is a great one. The name of the album is “Basra” and the Jazz Con Class listeners here will definitely enjoy it. It is another 1965 album that is border line Hard Bop but can be categorized under Avant-Garde and I will place it in that particular playlist after a couple of weeks featuring it as a whole. Joe Henderson is outstanding, again, like always, as he puts it over the top and over that border line. La Roca is constantly playing, taking turns jamming intensely with all the musicians. Pete La Roca is another example of the quality of Jazz drummers then and their inventiveness. He refused to change into a back beat drummer when the 70’s came by. Check the schedule link for play times.

About the Album:

Pete La Roca was one of those musicians with a long but under-sung career. He was a sideman to some great Blue Note leaders including saxophonists Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean, and Joe Henderson, but he only ever recorded one date (1965’s Basra) under his own name during the label’s heyday, and indeed only three records total as a leader over a fifty-year career. He was a drummer in the background in almost every sense.

According to La Roca’s obituary in the New York Times (he died November 19th, 2012), he left performing to go to law school and then to work as a contract lawyer, mostly because he couldn’t make a living playing the music he wanted to play.

Practicing law certainly came in handy when he sued for royalties related to his later album, Turkish Women at The Bath (Douglas, 1967); La Roca only returned to performing when he was able to balance his own financial stability with performing music. His life should serve as a reminder of how difficult it can be to actually make a living as a jazz musician…..Read More

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Biography of Pete La Roca:

Drummer Pete “La Roca” Sims, who passed away November 19 after a battle with lung cancer, was born April 7, 1938 in New York City. Early in his career, he played timbales with Latin bands, acquiring his nickname (“the rock”) along the way. He began his jazz career in earnest in 1957, playing with many of the biggest names of the time for over a decade, including Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Sonny Clark, and many others. For several years, he was the house drummer at the Jazz Workshop in Boston. In 1968, he left music entirely to become a lawyer, but returned to jazz in 1979.

Sims did a lot of recording for Blue Note during the 1950s and 1960s, including appearances on some truly legendary albums, like Sonny RollinsA Night at the Village Vanguard; Joe Henderson’s Page One and Our Thing; and Freddie Hubbard’s The Night of the Cookers. He also made one album under his own name during that era, 1965’s Basra. That record, which features Henderson on tenor, Steve Kuhn on piano, and Steve Swallow on bass, packs three Sims originals, one composition by the bassist (“Eiderdown”), a version of Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona’s “Malagueña,” and a take on the ballad “Lazy Afternoon” into just over 40 minutes. It combines hard bop and swing with some surprisingly avant-garde ideas (the title track hovers on a single chord for nearly 10 minutes), and the saxophonist and drummer are perfect foils for each other……Learn More

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