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Buddy Rich Rides Again

Jack Bowers By

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Those who believe that Buddy Rich is the greatest big-band drummer who ever lived (yes, I'm one of them) can look forward to a marvelous treat this spring when Ken Poston and the Los Angeles Jazz Institute present Time Check: A Buddy Rich Alumni Reunion May 19-22 at the Sheraton Gateway / LAX Hotel. The four-day event will spotlight big bands and smaller groups comprised in part of Buddy Rich alumni, all-star alumni-plus bands performing original arrangements written for Buddy's formidable ensembles, and a gathering of some of the world's most celebrated contemporary drummers including Butch Miles, Jeff Hamilton, Peter Erskine and Joe La Barbera, the members of whose big band will include Joe's brothers (and Buddy Rich alumni), trumpeter John and saxophonist Pat.

Besides the Buddy Rich Orchestra featuring vocalist Cathy Rich and drummer Gregg Potter, bands who have signed on to perform include those led by Bill Holman, Johnny Mandel, Carl Saunders, Richie Cole, Peter Myers and former Buddy Rich lead trumpeter Bobby Shew, along with the Luckman Jazz Orchestra directed by Charles Owens, the Don Menza Ensemble, the Ernie Watts Quartet and groups led by Chuck Findley and Bill Cunliffe. They'll be scanning the various eras in Rich's big-band career from Quiet Riot: the Buddy Rich Bebop Band of the 1940s to Big Swing Face: The Buddy Rich Band of the 1960s; Big Band Machine: Music from the 1970s; Killer Force: Music from the 1970s and '80s, and Harry James: the Buddy Rich Years, highlighting charts by Ernie Wilkins, Neal Hefti and Bob Florence. A number of alumni from Rich's various bands are expected to take part. As always, the event will be enhanced by rare films from the LAJI archives, panel discussions with Rich alumni reminiscing about concerts, tours and recordings, and other special presentations.

The festival will be preceded on the evening of Wednesday, May 18, by an all-star tribute to Terry Gibbs (free to the first one hundred registrants) with special guests Hamilton, Chuck Redd and an all-star big band playing music spanning Terry's career from the Benny Goodman Band to Woody Herman's Second Herd and Gibbs' legendary Dream Band from the late '50s and early '60s.

For tickets to the Alumni Reunion or more information, phone 562-200-5477.

And Closer to Home...

Meanwhile, here in Albuquerque, the New Mexico Jazz Workshop has scheduled a number of special events to help salute its fortieth anniversary in 2016. Guitarist Kevin Eubanks, former leader of the Tonight Show band when Jay Leno was at the helm, arrives with his trio April 9 for a performance at the KiMo Theatre, while rising young piano star Matt Savage headlines a concert July 23 at the Museum of Art and History as part of the NMJW's annual Jazz Under the Stars series. More plans are in the works for summer and fall. Stay tuned . . .

As it has been awhile (more than a year, actually) since Big Band Report last appeared at this site, some readers may have presumed that the cessation was caused by illness or some other calamitous event. Not so. The column was "retired" voluntarily as the author entered his eighth decade and returns only for special purposes such as letting readers know about the Buddy Rich Reunion in May. The big- band reviews, meanwhile, have continued to appear on a regular basis, and we hope to keep writing them as long as mind and body allow.

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