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There have been many outstanding big bands in the relatively brief history of Jazz as we know it — but only one Buddy Rich. He wasn’t called “Mr. Drums” for nothing. You take any band, I don’t care whose, and place Buddy in the drum chair, and it’ll sound better. Not slightly better, mind you; I’m talking significantly better. Listen to any of his electrifying big–band recordings from the late ’60s or early ’70s and you’ll hear what it means to have a master directing traffic and kicking the band in its collective ass. Buddy’s bands played like every note would be their last, because he demanded and would accept nothing less. A dictator? Of course. But as he said, “This is my band, and I can do whatever I want.” And even his harshest critics would agree that sidemen who gave the music everything they had seldom had a problem with Buddy. Except for a longer version of “Space Shuttle” (which raises the playing time to a more respectable 49:04) tacked on the end, Stick It, as reissued on disc by RCA Victor, appears to be the same album that was recorded in 1972 and released the following year. Many of Rich’s admirers probably have the album but may wish to exchange it for the relative permanence of a compact disc. This was a time at which Buddy was delving into Jazz versions of songs by the Beatles, and so we have George Harrison’s “Something” (a showcase for Lin Biviano’s high–note trumpet) and Paul and Linda McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” Jobim is represented by “Wave,” while John LaBarbera, who arranged everything, wrote three tunes — “Space Shuttle,” “Best Coast” and “Sassy Strut.” The most unusual condiment on the table is a (surprisingly effective) vocal by Buddy himself, with Namuth’s guitar, on Joe Raposo’s “(It Isn’t Easy) Bein’ Green” (first sung, of course, by Kermit the Frog, a.k.a. Jim Henson). Although Stick It is a studio recording, the sound quality is relatively harsh and less congenial than some of the band’s live dates ( Big Swing Face, Mercy Mercy, Swingin’ New Big Band, Keep the Customer Satisfied, and so on). Biviano’s over–the–top trumpet can be especially piercing. On the other hand, it’s a big band led by the incomparable Buddy Rich, and that alone is as close to an unconditional endorsement as one can envision.
Track listing: Space Shuttle (short version); God Bless the Child; Best Coast; Wave; Something; Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey; Sassy Strut; Bein’ Green; Space Shuttle (long version) (49:04).
Buddy Rich, drums; Joe Romano, Brian Grivna, alto sax, flute; Pat LaBarbera, tenor, soprano sax, flute; Don Englert, tenor sax, flute; Richard Centalonza, baritone sax; Lin Biviano, Wayne Naus, Greg Hopkins, John DeFlon, trumpet; Eric Culver, Alan Kaplan, trombone; Bill Reichenbach, bass trombone; Walt Namuth, guitar; George McFetridge, piano; Joel Di Bartolo, bass.