After multiple myeloma, recording artist plays on
December 18, 2018
| by Zen Vuong
Seven City of Hope patients will welcome the New Year atop City of Hope’s 47th Rose Parade float, “Harmony of Hope.” Meet float rider Abraham Laboriel, a world-renowned bassist whose work has been featured in 4,000 recordings and film soundtracks, including “Coco,” “Frozen” and “Incredibles 2.”
Mexican-born Abraham Laboriel immigrated to the United States in his early 20s – the American dream and his love of American music was a siren call he couldn’t ignore. Laboriel spent the rest of his life helping to shape what it means to be American.
A talented and prolific bassist, Laboriel contributed to albums by Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Al Jarreau, Ella Fitzgerald, Dolly Parton, Madonna, Ray Charles and many more. He has been called “the most widely used session bassist of our time” by Bass Player magazine; Laboriel has played in more than 4,000 recordings and film soundtracks from “Forest Gump” to “Jurassic World.”
At 71, Laboriel is still a major player in the music scene. He is actively recording and touring. He didn’t let cancer slow him down.
The diagnosis: Multiple myeloma
In September 2016, Laboriel, a Tarzana, California, resident, underwent total left knee replacement due to arthritis. He recovered quickly. But a month later, he began to go downhill. He felt weak and lost his appetite. Laboriel lost more than 25 pounds in a short time. Something was wrong.
During the two-week stem-cell transplant process, a patient’s body is very weak and hospitalization in isolation is the usual plan. But thanks to a compassionate City of Hope program, Laboriel stayed with his wife in a private bungalow on the City of Hope campus.
“At any other treatment center, you would have to stay in a hospital room for the whole procedure,” Laboriel said. “But City of Hope has this amazing alternative that made all the difference emotionally.”
Laboriel went to City of Hope’s Michael Amini Transfusion Medicine Center every morning for treatment and was usually safely back in his on-campus bungalow by noon. In his private bungalow, he could rest and recuperate in peace and quiet. He ate home-cooked meals and snacks with few worries, knowing that if there were any complications or concerns, the hospital was right there. He could have unlimited visits from his sons who, like him, are gifted musicians. They talked and laughed and made music together every day.
“Music is a source of healing and has a tremendous power to keep people going beyond their own strength,” Laboriel said. “Music helped me regain my strength after cancer.”
Don’t stop believing
Laboriel is now in remission. He has returned to touring internationally. Even during his treatment and recovery process, Laboriel was able to work in the studios. He contributed to albums and film soundtracks. Most recently, he worked on “Coco,” “Jurassic World,” “Zootopia,” “Inside Out,” “Frozen” and “Incredibles 2.”
Music gives him so much joy. It is at the core of his family heritage. His father was a guitarist, singer, actor and composer, and his brother Johnny Laboriel was a beloved Mexican rock-and-roll idol.
Abraham Laboriel started recording with his own bands when he was only 8 years old and was a successful musician in Mexico all through his teens. Still, his parents tried to dissuade him from a career in music. They wanted him to pursue a more “stable” path. They tried to send him to school for aeronautical engineering, but his passion was music. He had fallen in love with jazz and American music and yearned to learn more and keep growing. With the support of his family, he came to the United States to study.
Laboriel was admitted to the Berklee School of Music in Boston, where he discovered he had a unique gift for playing the electric bass. Doors began to open. While at school, he landed nightly gigs with the Boston touring company of “Hair.” One night, he was invited to perform with Johnny Mathis and the Count Basie Orchestra, which led to performances with Henry Mancini. Mancini encouraged him to move to Los Angeles with his wife and first child, and the rest is music history.
Laboriel plans to continue to perform and record music indefinitely because he says musicians never really retire. Making music fills him with joy every day.
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