In 2023, some 36 years after his death, the name of Buddy Rich
is still synonymous with the word "drums" in many quarters, as is his reputation as a swinging, driving, fiery, and charismatic drummer/leader of a series of superb big bands, roughly in existence from 1966 until his passing in 1987. What is not generally known is that Rich was also a sensitive, passionate and inspiring small group drummer, who backed, through the years, everyone from Lester Young
and Nat King Cole
to Bud Powell
and Louis Armstrong
in small ensembles. Two landmark trio recordings, in fact, featured Rich with Lester Young and Nat Cole in 1945, and with Art Tatum
and Lionel Hampton
in a 1955 session. The fact that a drummer could sensitively drive these legendsin dates with no bass, yetwith nothing more than a pair of brushes, was and is astounding.
This is why Buddy Rich Trios
, a Lightyear Entertainment release culled from 1976 and 1977 sessions recorded by the then Rich bandsman Alan Gauvin, is such a pleasure to hear. It gives younger listeners, and/or those only familiar with Rich in a big band setting, another view of the man and his music, and how he was able to drive more contemporary players with, once again, only a pair of brushes.
Rich always believed that intensity does not necessarily mean volume. His playing throughout the album on nine standards stand as cases in point. And because Lightyear engineer Tom Swift's goal was to, as the notes say, "bring Buddy's amazing brush work to the fore," listeners are able to hear virtually every stroke and how the man worked his magic. Buddy Rich Trios
swings, at various tempos, from start to finish. Those who knew Rich know that he would not have had it any other way.
These numbers were recorded during live big band dates when Rich gave the large ensemble a rest and brought the trio out front. One suspects that Rich also wanted to find a setting to feature his promising young pianist, Barry Kiener
, who was quite obviously headed for big things in the jazz world, had he not died of a heroin overdose at the age of 30 while on the band bus in 1986. Rich was devastated for some time. He thought the world of Kiener and looked upon him like a son.
Kiener, who came out of the Barry Harris
school with modern overtones a la McCoy Tyner
, was enormously talented. He swings beautifully on standards like "Just Friends," "Groovin' High," "I Hear a Rhapsody" and the rest. Kiener's solo version of "Here's That Rainy Day" is just beautiful, and particularly touching, knowing his sad end.
Bassist John Burr
, playing an electric instrument that Rich's big band almost demanded since the early 1970s, is featured on all but two tracks. He negotiates the instrument with ease and technique to spare. Listening to Burr and Rich spar on series of four bar exchanges is a joy. Tom Warrington
plays bass on "Stella by Starlight" and "There is No Greater Love." Warrington was about 24 years of age when these tracks were recorded. In terms of technique and a wealth of tasteful ideas, he was already playing like a veteran.
As for the master, his playing, though prominent in the mix, is a model of swing and taste. More than 30 years before these trio tracks were recorded, Buddy Rich was playing with, and swinging legends like, Charlie Parker
, Young, Armstrong, Hampton, Tatum. Ella Fitzgerald
and the rest. On Buddy Rich Trios
he's swinging and inspiring a group of promising youngsters. Rich wanted, as much as anything, to inspire talented young players, with his hope being that jazz would go on. It has. And thanks to Cathy Rich, Steve Michelson, Arnie Holland, and Alan Gauvin for getting this out there.
Just Friends; There Will Never Be Another You; Like Someone in Love; Groovin' High; My Romance;
Secret Love; I Hear a Rhapsody; Stella by Starlight; There is No Greater Love; Here's That Rainy Day.