Justo Almario and his longtime friend Abraham Laboriel are two of the world's acclaimed jazz musicians. They move easily from laying down tracks in slick L.A. studios for cds by such megastars as Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder to playing in their individual churches' worship bands.

Laboriel, called "L.A.'s ace groovemonger" by Bass Player magazine, toured with vibraphone player Gary Burton, pop singer Johnny Mathis, and jazz arranger Henry Mancini before moving to Los Angeles and becoming, in the words of one magazine, "the most widely used session bass player of our time." He has played on 3,500 recordings by such musical megastars as George Benson, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Amy Grant, Chick Corea, Dolly Parton, Julio Iglesias, Barbra Streisand, and Al Jarreau.

A woodwind virtuoso, Almario worked with pioneering Latin/jazz group Mongo Santamaria and Charles Mingus before recording and touring with Roy Ayers, the Commodores, Linda Ronstadt, and Freddy Hubbard.

Complete musicians
Almario and Laboriel have been friends since 1969, when both arrived at Boston's Berklee College of Music from their native Latin America. Almario, who was raised in Colombia, and Laboriel, who hails from Mexico, were both born into families headed by professional musician fathers who exposed them to everything from calypso to classical. And both attended Roman Catholic schools, where the seeds of the Christian faith were planted deep in their souls.

Each came to the United States in part because of his love for American jazz (Almario said Cannonball Adderly's sax "sounded like a bird flying free." Laboriel said he wept when he first heard the music of Berklee alumnus Quincy Jones.) It wasn't long after the two met that they played together in a ...

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