At one point in time, John LaPorta looked like he was going to be one of the leading clarinetists in modern jazz. His cool tone and very advanced style (influenced by Lennie Tristano) seemed to be making him the Lee Konitz of the clarinet.
LaPorta showed great promise as a reedman, particularly for his skills as a bebop and Third Stream clarinetist, but chose to sidestep into the educator's chair. One of his first professional gigs was with Bob Chester's swing band, beginning in 1942. In '44 he joined the Herman aggregation and remained for two years, making his own imprint on what became a classic big- band sound. His taste and technique were impeccable on alto and tenor saxes and clarinet.
LaPorta moved to New York City in 1946 and was hired by pianist Lennie Tristano at the nascence of the cool-jazz movement. His career in music education began in '48 at Brooklyn's Parkway Music Institute. He also gave private instruction as he pursued his M.A. at the Manhattan School of Music. The list of artists with whom he worked was extensive: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Gunther Schuller, Herb Pomeroy, Billy Eckstine, Kenny Clarke, Lester Young, Max Roach, Hank Mobley, Bill Evans, Buddy Rich, Bill Harris, Fats Navarro, Oscar Pettiford, Helen Merrill, Neal Hefti, Johnny Mathis, and the big band Orange Then Blue. He was also impressive as a classical soloist, performing under Bernstein, Stravinsky, Stokowski and the Boston Pops.