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Buddy Rich: Birdland

Glenn Astarita By

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There's usually a reason why previously unreleased material was never initially offered for consumer consumption, whether it's due to subpar sound quality, less than adequate material or blasé musicians' outtakes and so on. However, these tracks by the Buddy Rich Killer Force band were recorded at various venues through the years when saxophonist Alan Gauvin—who also penned the album notes —was in the band and recorded these performances for posterity and not initially intended to be sold. Gauvin doesn't recall the exact dates, but at the time, Rich led the band through a rigorous touring schedule and it's estimated that these pieces span the 70s and 80s.

In 1977 Weather Report's commercially successful "Birdland," (Heavy Weather, Columbia Records), composed by keyboardist Joe Zawinul became a popular jazz fusion piece and shortly thereafter became a trendy cover tune for big bands. In the not too distant future, jazz renditions of this comp sort of wore out its welcome, evidenced by the business as usual routine of hornists' blaring spin on the catchy theme and correlating big band music with Weather Report's jazz fusion syntax. After awhile certain covers become overly formulaic or reek with an air of predictability. Hence, Rich and associates pretty much traverse the same path, along with Tom Warrington or Jon Burr's assimilation of Jaco Pastorius' patented bass riff. Otherwise, the recording quality---despite some compression —is satisfactory, as Rich is the driving force behind a powerful arrangement of "Milestones" and the other tracks, largely packed with sizzling horn solos and up- tempo swing grooves.

Rich doesn't dominate the album with an endless string of solos, yet fills in the gaps with his customary flawless precision and blinding speed. A young Bob Mintzer (tenor sax) and longtime Rich band-mate Steve Marcus (soprano sax) go on a tear during the band's snazzy arrangement of John Coltrane's "Moments Notice," much to the audience's delight. Here, trumpeter Ross Konikoff soars skyward; whereas, Rich trades pungent fours with pianist Barry Keiner Rich on the standard, "I Hear A Rhapsody." And Marcus' executes a passionate whirlwind solo atop a high-impact Latin jazz vamp with bursting horns on "Three Day Suckers." In sum, Birdland is a commendable release, and like other decades-old Rich albums, should be deemed required listening for just about any aspiring drummer on the planet.

Track Listing: Mexicali Rose; Birdland; Milestones; Just Friends; CTA; God Bless The Child; Moments Notice; I Hear A Rhapsody; Three Day Suckers; Parthenia; Keep The Customer Satisfied.

Personnel: Alan Gauvin: alto saxophone,soprano saxophone, flute; Bill Blount or Frank Basile; alto saxophone; Steve Marcus: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Bobby Mintzer: tenor saxophone, flute; Turk Mauro: baritone saxophone; Rick Stepton: trombone; Dale Kirkland: trombone; David Boyle: trombone; Dave Stahl: trumpet; Dean Pratt: trumpet; Ross Konikoff: trumpet; John Marshall or Waymon Reed: trumpet; Barry Keiner: piano; Tom Warrington or Jon Burr: bass; Buddy Rich: drums/leader; Chuck Wilson replaces Bill Blount (1,7,10,11); John Mosca or Clint Charmin replaces Rick Stepton or Dale Kirkland (1,7,10,11); Chuck Schmidt replaces Dave Stahl (1,7,10,11); Ed Eby replaces Dave Boyle (1,7,10,11); Bob Kaye replaces Barry Keiner (10); Jim Pritchard replaces Turk Mauro (1,7,10,11); Gary Pribek replaces Bob Mintzer on all but (7); Dave Kennedy replaces Ross Konikoff or Jon Marshall (1,7,10,11).

Title: Birdland | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Lobitos Creek Ranch

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