Buddy Rich: The Lost Tapes

Jim Santella By

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Rather than dominate the program with showy drum solos, Rich gives his audience a balanced session that covers the range of big band specialties.
Buddy Rich and His Band
The Lost Tapes
Lightyear Entertainment

Recorded April 3, 1985 and featuring Bill Reddie's thrilling "West Side Story" medley arrangement, this lost & found session with the Buddy Rich 15-piece big band comes from the same session as Channel One Suite , which was released several years ago. It's the same "live" studio performance that was released earlier as The Lost West Side Story Tapes, with Rich sitting atop the band below a huge neon "BR" and driving his band in typical Buddy Rich fashion.

Rich passed away in 1987. This performance captures many of the thrills and much of the great music that he provided throughout his long career, along with some interesting camera work. His virtuosic sticking technique was still in top form. Mounted atop a large Plexiglas structure, Rich can be seen from all angles. He's even filmed from below for a portion of one drum solo. With his band dressed in dark suits and neckties and Rich wearing a long-sleeved white shirt with several buttons left open at the top, he leads the band through arrangements that feature saxophonist Steve Marcus, trumpeter Paul Phillips, and several others. Rather than dominate the program with showy drum solos, Rich gives his audience a balanced session that covers the range of big band specialties.

As the camera shifts to the band's soloists, their sound is somewhat diminished by the band's voluminous counterpoint. Big band arrangements by Harry Betts, Bob Florence, John LaBarbara, Dick Lieb, Don Piestrup and Bobby Shew give the band a holistic covering that does not allow the soloists' portions to come through clearly. The band acts as one large force, putting all the sections together as one voice. As Marcus, Phillips, Bill Cunliffe and Bob Bowlby take particularly worthy soliloquies, the band continues to roar with its own overshadowing qualities.

Marcus' tenor feature on "'Round Midnight" receives the same treatment. While his outstanding performance places this favorite composition in high regard, he's overshadowed by the band's layers of harmony.

Rich's drum solos, naturally, come through clearly, due to the nature of his instrument.

With "Tee Bag," we get the piano trio alone for a driving Mike Mainieri piece that proves interesting on the part of all three artists. Rich, Cunliffe and Dave Carpenter weave a cohesive affair that tingles with straight-ahead excitement.

With the band's closing "West Side Story" medley, we get a balanced arrangement that features each section calling and responding with dramatic intensity. Leonard Bernstein's emotional masterpiece is reflected well through the band's balanced attack and through its creative voicing. Saxophones call and trumpets respond, then trombones announce a new thrill. The nature of the music, of course, gives the band's interpretation a dramatic lift; but it's the smart arrangement that makes it work so well. Rich closes the medley with an extensive drum solo that takes us through all the drum wonders that have made him a legend. His sticking is superb, and he makes use of every texture available to him. It's particularly interesting to watch him decrescendo his work into a crisp whisper and then build it again to a giant force. Rich moved from end to end of his drum set in a flash and captured a piece of each item crisply in between. The camera catches it all, and gives us a marvelous performance.

Personnel: Buddy Rich: drums, leader; Steve Marcus: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Mark Pinto, Bob Bowlby: alto saxophone; Brian Sjoerdinga: tenor saxophone, flute; Jay Craig: baritone saxophone; Scott Bliege, Mike Davis: trombone; James Martin: bass trombone; Paul Phillips, Eric Miyashiro, Michael Lewis, Joe Kaminski: trumpet; Bill Cunliffe: piano; Dave Carpenter: electric bass.

Tracks: Mexicali Nose; Willowcrest; 'Round Midnight; Cotton Tail; New Blues; Tee Bag; The Red Snapper; West Side Story (Overture and Medley).

Program Notes: Directed by Scott Ross; Approximate running time 115 minutes.


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