Session Men Extraordinaire

Session Men Extraordinaire

After I moved to Boston in 1967 to attend Berklee College of Music, I auditioned for an eight-piece blues band and met singer-songwriter-pianist-guitarist-bassist Andy Pratt. We wound up forming a trio called Butter and played covers of Cream, Hendrix, The Who and even some Motown at venues like The Boston Tea Party. Andy and I and some other Boston musicians recorded his first album, Records Are Like Life, which Polydor released in 1970; it was my first time in a studio.

Fast forward to 1973 during the recording sessions for Andy’s self-titled album for Columbia at Aengus Studios just outside of Boston. I was in contact with bassist extraordinaire Abraham Laboriel, whom I’d met when we were both students at Berklee, and I invited him to play on a few songs. Those turned out to be the first recording sessions he’d ever done in the United States, though he was already well-known in Mexico City. I couldn’t believe what a phenomenal bassist he was – and still is! At the time, he was just beginning what became an amazing career, during which he’s played with a who’s who of contemporary artists, but his awareness of others, his generosity of spirit and his ability to spread that generosity through his playing was evident even back then.

Quite simply, Abe brings out the best in people and he’s full of surprises. One day, while Andy and I were talking to John Nagy, our producer, we overheard someone playing some incredible acoustic guitar. It blew us away and we were spellbound, standing there speechless with our collective jaws on the floor. Confusion reigned for a few minutes before we noticed that it was Abe playing the guitar; he’d picked up Andy’s Martin and was practicing some absolutely astonishing classical parts. When he finished, he looked up kind of sheepishly and gave us an explanation that made perfect sense: “Guitar is really my first instrument,” he said. “My father is a classical guitar teacher in Mexico City.” You could have knocked us over with a feather!

(by Rick Shlosser)

Rick Shlosser played drums in Van Morrison‘s band in the early 1970s and had a decades-long career as a session player. Among the artists with whom he’s worked are Eric Andersen, George Benson, Cher, Stanley Clarke, Maynard Ferguson, Art Garfunkel, Gilberto Gil, Ronnie Hawkins, Janis Ian, Etta James, Nicolette Larson, Little Feat, Barry Manilow, Ronnie Montrose, Maria Muldaur, Juice Newton, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Billy Preston, Lionel Richie, Linda Ronstadt, Diana Ross, Dusty Springfield, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, James Taylor, Tanya Tucker and Link Wray.

Editor’s note: Guitar Player magazine once referred to Abraham Laboriel “the most widely used session bassist of our time,” having played on over 4,000 recordings and soundtracks. His son, Abe Laboriel Jr., had continued his family’s rich musical tradition as a drummer and has backed Paul McCartney on every one of his tours since 2001.

Published On: May 7, 2024