Bassist Abraham Laboriel has done nearly 5,000 recording sessions during a musical career dating back to the mid-1970s. You might be surprised, however, to learn that Nathan Davis, the head of jazz studies at University of Pittsburgh, had a major hand in getting him started.
And that's why Mr. Laboriel, a native of Mexico City, a graduate of the Berklee School of Music and based in Los Angeles since 1978, returns regularly to Pitt's annual Jazz Seminar, which culminates with a concert on Saturday at Carnegie Music Hall.
In the mid-1970s, Mr. Laboriel and his wife, Lyn, a pediatrician, were living in Cleveland, where she was doing an internship. Generally, a house-husband rearing their young son Abraham Jr., he was teaching one day a week at Oberlin College.
Wendell Logan, the late head of the jazz program there, introduced him to Mr. Davis, "who would come there to give lectures. The next thing I know, Nathan invited me to perform on his record ["Nathan Davis introducing Abraham Laboriel," which was released in 1975] -- [and] I was not supposed to be recording. [At that point] I had done only two recordings in the United States."
Eventually catching the ear of the late composer Henry Mancini -- who coincidentally was born in Cleveland and grew up in Aliquippa -- Mr. Laboriel moved west originally to perform on Mr. Mancini's "Symphonic Soul."
Despite his extensive resume, which includes such credits as Donald Fagen, Lee Ritenour, Christopher Cross and Herbie Hancock, Mr. Laboriel is probably best known for two musical projects. One was trumpeter Herb Alpert's instrumental disco-era smash "Rise."
The other is the Latin-jazz-fusion band Koinonia, which he founded in 1980, that was better known overseas than in the United States and also considered a ministry. Mr. Laboriel, who became an evangelical Christian in 1977, said that the band, which included at different times drummer/percussionist Alex Acuna and keyboardist Lou Pardini, now with the band Chicago, "was really the result of prayer; everyone in the band was praying."
Both of Mr. Laboriel's sons, Abraham Jr., a drummer, and younger son Mateo, who produces and plays guitar and bass, have followed in their father's footsteps and become musicians. "The fact that both of them chose music shows that they weren't exposed to the hurt," their father says, noting that many children choose careers different from their parents' due to rebellion.
So you might say that Mr. Laboriel is coming full circle in returning to Pitt. He considers Mr. Davis, who holds a doctorate in ethnomusicology, a mentor, and "I'm blessed to have a long relationship with him."
Rick Nowlin: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3871.