Born in Memphis, Tennessee Bobby LaVell gained an interest in music while in high school. He became proficient on the Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet and Piano while pursuing formal musical studies at Memphis State (now the University of Memphis), and Shelby State College. Bobby also studied and became proficient as an arranger and composer during that time. Bobby' s formal education continued with composition studies with Bob Brookmeyer and Manny Albam at the B.M.I. Jazz Composers Workshop.
Bobby studied improvisation with Fred Ford of Memphis, Tennessee, and he credits Ford with shaping his musical philosophy. . . "He was the best teacher anyone could have, because he taught me to teach myself. However, his first and foremost influence was his father, the late Bob (Honeymoon) Garner, a pianist and organist in the Memphis area.
During Bobby's early professional career, he performed, arranged and conducted for Memphis singer Lee Stone.
He continued to develop his performing career by serving long stints as a regular with the phenomenal BB King and Ray Charles. Bobby has also performed with such fixtures as The Temptations, The Four Tops, and The Nicholas Brothers. Additionally, there have been performances with Harold Mabern and George Coleman. Mr. Coleman once said of LaVell, "He' s an excellent musician and an exceptional saxophonist".
In Ohio and New York Bobby performed as leader of The Bobby LaVell Octet and Quartet. He spent ten years with the late Cab Calloway. And performed with the late Pete (Laroca) Sims Swing Time All Stars,
He is regular member of The Jimmy Heath Big Band. For a while he performed with The Chico O'Farrill Big Band. He performed with Slide Hampton's Jazz Masters for three years until the band was shut down. Bobby still maintains a close working relationship with Mr. Hampton. He is also a member of The Manhattan Symphony Jazz Orchestra conducted by Dennis Mackrel. He was a member of The Duke Ellington Orchestra for almost 20 years. With his own intuition Bobby founded and leads “The Bobby LaVell Jazz Orchestra”, formally “The Hudson River Jazz Orchestra”.
He worked with a Big Band conducted by Benny GoIson. And for the last four years he has been a member of Ron Carter’s Great Big Band.
Bobby is continuously busy throughout each year, performing venues all over the United States, Canada, South America, Europe and the Caribbean.
Bobby' s talents are to say the least, a man who is full of inspiration and enormous talent, as a saxophonist, Bobby LaVell's sound, technique and articulation are second to none. As a composer his works are poignant and inspiring. As a person, he is solid, and as an artist he is phenomenal.