Buddy Rich: Live In '78

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Buddy Rich
Live In '78
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This concert should definitely prove a winner for listeners who prefer the straight-ahead, swinging, Count Basie-indebted Buddy Rich ensembles of the mid-to-late 1970s to the somewhat rock-heavy sonic barrage of the band assembled by the legendary drummer and bandleader at the close of the 1960s. Even though the video catches the band just after the departure of some key Rich players like trumpeter Dave Stahl and pianist Barry Kiener, it still features Rich's right-hand man, tenor saxophonist Steve Marcus, along with a tight-knit ensemble of players with strong soloists in all sections.

The program is a crowd-pleaser, including a Sammy Nestico swinger, a fusion pop chart (Joe Zawinul's "Birdland"), and one of Rich's two major drum solo vehicles ("Channel One Suite," the successor to "West Side Story"), on which he doesn't disappoint. Visually, the camera crew and editors are right on top of the action, intercutting long shots, close-ups, and angled shots that attentively follow the important musical developments, giving the viewer a chair right alongside the percussion phenomenon known as Buddy Rich.

Admittedly, the sound did not do wonders by my modest-sized television speakers. The solos are closely miked and clear throughout, including the leader's solo turns, and the overall ensemble sound is good. On the other hand, the rhythmic support, including Rich's drum kit and ride cymbal, seemed excessively muffled and dampened, while the electric bass was occasionally penetrating and pinched.

Viewers with five-channel digital systems and wattage worthy of the drummer's firepower have already assured me the audio is as good as the listener's playback equipment. If so, Live In '78 is no doubt the best available video representation of this musical juggernaut and as close as a present-day listener can come to experiencing its full force.

Tracks: Ya Gotta Try; Little Train; Best Coast; Grand Concourse; 'Round Midnight; Birdland; Channel One Suite; Big Swing Face.

Personnel: Buddy Rich: drums; Andy Fusco and Chuck Wilson: alto saxophone and flute; Steve Marcus and Chuck Wilson: soprano saxophone; Steve Marcus and Gary Pribeck: tenor saxophone; Greg Smith: baritone saxophone; John Marshall, Mike McGovern, Mark Ohlsen and Chuck Schmidt: trumpet; Glenn Franke, Dale Kirkland, George Moran: trombone; Bob Kaye: piano; Tom Warrington: electric bass.

Production Notes: Recorded live in Holland. Total time: 75 minutes. Includes 20-page booklet with foreword by Buddy's daughter Cathy Rich, liner notes by former Rich trumpeter Dean Pratt, and 1978 Down Beat interview with Rich by his friend Mel Tormé.

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