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02/11: Buddy Rich

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
My 8th grade year I walked into the bandroom before school one morning and heard music playing that changed my life. Someone had a Buddy Rich album on the stereo and I stopped dead in my tracks, spellbound. From that moment to this, my favorite music has been jazz.

From YouTube, a clip from 1978 of Buddy and his band playing in the Netherlands, a good introduction to his style.

By 1978 Buddy was already 61 years old, but you noticed in the video clip that his sticks were a blur, and life on the road had not worn him down. Biography here.

Here's Buddy and his band again. He proves that snow on the roof don't mean the fire's out in the stove. Notice how most of the band members are young. Buddy had a good ear for young talent, hired it, and trained it. He was a hard task-master demanding self-discipline, constant attention to detail, and absolute professionalism in performance. His temper was legendary when he thought a member of his band was giving a half-hearted effort. But, the Buddy Rich Big Band was a great training ground for any young player who wanted a career in the business.

This is a Buddy Rich drum solo, from 1970. The tape is not speeded up nor overdubbed. This is a sample of what you could see at any gig he played, from New York club to college campus to Las Vegas to a high school gymnasium in Dubuque. He kept a Big Band on the road long after almost all had died. In this clip the 53 year old man shows the rock boys how it's done.

Many think this is the greatest drum solo every caught on film.

But what always impressed me most was his skill in leading and driving a big band. For example, here on this medley from West Side Story. Buddy crafted his skills as a drummer and leader over decades of disciplined work. Here he is in 1949.

Finally, from Berlin, Buddy and the band doing Mercy, Mercy, a tune that could lift me up any time I was down during those sometimes long nights of high school.

Buddy died April 2, 1987. Frank Sinatra gave the eulogy.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
A while back I did a post on the greatest jazz drummer of all time, the man many regard as simply the best drummer ever--Buddy Rich.

And now, as a break from politics, a few of the other greats, men who deserve to be mentioned in the same post as Mr. Rich.

Gene Krupa. When Buddy Rich was young, Krupa was the man he was measured against. Krupa biography. The man helped develop the modern drum set or drum kit, and created the definitive role for the drummer within a jazz orchestra. The Gene Krupa Band in a 1941 movie; yes, that trumpet soloist was black--Krupa integrated his band much earlier than most. If "Drum Boogie" does not make you want to get up and swing dance, then check your pulse. The Gene Krupa Quartet, "Swing, Swing, Swing." And finally, Gene and Buddy go stick-to-stick.

Louis Bellson. Biography. You have perhaps heard of his wife, Pearl Bailey. Though overshadowed by Krupa and Rich, both men admired Belson. In fact, during a hospitalization Rich asked Belson to fill in for him. The Louis Belson Band. (Yes, a jazz drummer is not great unless he can lead a band.) A drum solo. And, Bellson and Rich mano-y-mano.

Billy Cobham. Biography. Born in Panama, the only one of these drummers who could step over to play rock and fusion when he chose. With Ron Carter and Herbie Hancock doing traditional jazz combo work. In a fusion mood.

There are very good young drummers out there today, catch a listen to Dave Weckl, for example; jazz replenishes itself each generation. These four are the O.D.'s, the Original Drummers whose influence continues.