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Time Check: A Paucity of Riches?


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On May 18, Betty and I flew to Los Angeles to attend Time Check: A Buddy Rich Alumni Reunion, a four-day panorama sponsored by the L.A. Jazz Institute and held at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel, about a stone's throw or two from the LAX airport. We arrived early afternoon so we could also be present for the "bonus" concert that evening, billed as an all-star tribute to vibraphone great Terry Gibbs with Chuck Redd sitting in on vibes for the man of the hour and leading an updated version of the Terry Gibbs Dream Band.

As is customary on such occasions, there were a number of big names fronting big bands, most notably composer / arrangers Johnny Mandel, Bill Holman, Bob Mintzer and Peter Myers; trumpeters Bobby Shew and Carl Saunders, and educators John LaBarbera, Charles Owens and Bill Cunliffe Even Buddy's daughter, Cathy, was on hand to co-lead the "Buddy Rich Big Band" with drummer Gregg Potter (more about that later). Before delving into specifics, here are a couple of general observations: first, the acoustics in the Sheraton's Grand Ballroom, where all but one of the concerts was held, are not, to put it as charitably as possible, ideal for big bands (the Jeff Hamilton Trio, which opened the tribute on Thursday, actually fared much better). The sonic shortcomings were amplified at Wednesday evening's bonus event, for which there was a rehearsal but apparently no sound check. Redd and the band were fine; they simply could not be heard with any clarity beyond the first few rows of seats.

Second, and most important, precious little "Buddy Rich" was actually heard at a reunion presumably held to celebrate the master drummer and his music. There were fourteen concerts in all, during which, by my count, 148 separate pieces of music were presented. Of those, thirty-four (roughly twenty-three percent) were songs written for and / or performed by Buddy's various bands (not counting another thirteen that Buddy more than likely played as a sideman with the Harry James Orchestra). And nineteen of the thirty-four were performed in two concerts by the Buddy Rich Reunion Band, leaving fifteen (out of 127, or about twelve percent) for the others. Of the fourteen concerts, eight contained zero music associated with Buddy or his bands. Bill Holman, who wrote a number of splendid charts for Buddy's peerless ensemble from the mid-60s, played only one of them ("Norwegian Wood"), LaBarbera four of his own, while drummer Michael Berkowitz' band performed songs that Buddy played with trumpeter James' orchestra. There were times when the sole link to Buddy's music was that an alumnus was leading the ensemble.

Mind you, I am not criticizing Ken Poston or the LAJI for this, as I have absolutely no idea how these events are planned and designed or the stumbling blocks that must be surmounted. It does seem to me, however, that if a bandleader were asked to perform at a tribute to Buddy Rich, and had almost a year to prepare, he might say to the band, "Hey, guys, let's throw in a chart or two that Buddy played." Or even better, play some the bandleader himself had written for Buddy. As noted, Holman presented one, LaBarbera four, Pete Myers another four, while Mintzer, Mandel, Cunliffe and Owens combined for a total of none (one can excuse the Jeff Hamilton Trio, as it's not clear why they were there in the first place unless it was because Hamilton is an outstanding drummer who happened to be in town and available; obviously, he never played with Buddy's bands, nor did he write for them, and the trio performed no music associated with Buddy).

On a more auspicious note, the four film narratives and half-dozen panel discussions interlacing the concerts were devoted almost entirely to Buddy's singular career and persona, combining humor and insight to paint a memorable portrait of the honoree in all his genius and often bewildering complexity. The films took viewers on a fascinating journey from Rich's early days with the Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey bands of the late thirties and early forties (when the drum monarch was barely out of his teens) to 1984, only three years before his passing, when Buddy was still inspiring his band with the energy and enthusiasm of someone many years his junior. Included along the way were clips of some of his many appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and "drum battles" with Gene Krupa, Louie Bellson, Ed Shaughnessy and even Animal, one of the stars of The Muppet Show (battles, by the way, that Buddy never lost).

The panels were similarly lively and informative, especially "Swingin' New Big Band: the 1960s" with panelists Shew, Owens, Chuck Findley, Barry Zweig and Mike Price, admirably moderated by Terry Gibbs; "The Arrangers" (Holman, Myers, John LaBarbera, Mandel and Don Piestrup, moderated by Berkowitz); "Big Band Machine" (Mintzer, Pat LaBarbera, John LaBarbera, Charlie Davis and Alan Kaplan, moderated by Kirk Silsbee) and "Killer Force" (Cunliffe, Keith Bishop and Kevin Richardson, moderated by Ken Borgers). Panelists shared humorous and sometimes harrowing stories of life on the road with the various Buddy Rich bands, his quirks and tantrums when dealing with sidemen, whom he often fired on a whim, as well as his gentler and more benevolent side, not often seen except by those closest to him. Holman and the other arrangers recounted what it was like to write for Buddy, not always an easy task (Myers, for example, contributed the classic chart "Love for Sale," for which he wasn't paid, so he never wrote another). Truth be told, the films and panels were among the highlights of the four-day-long tribute.

Having said that, let us now review the various presentations sequentially, day-by-day, as conclusively as memory allows.

Wednesday, May 18: The bonus event, an all-star tribute to Terry Gibbs (who was present and accounted for), began with a "this is your life" film that neatly summarized the vibraphonist's stellar career, starting at age twelve when the precocious Julius Gubenko won top honors on radio's Major Bowes Amateur Hour. Gibbs went on to star in a number of bands including Woody Herman's illustrious Second Herd before forming his own "Dream Band" in the late '50s. Following the film, the current edition of the Dream Band, led by vibraphonist Chuck Redd, performed a number of songs associated with its earlier variant including "Ja-Da," "Pretty Blue Eyes," "Begin the Beguine," "Nose Cone," "Don't Be That Way," "Soft Eyes" and "Sweet Georgia Brown" (there were a few others but the horrendous acoustics made hearing their names impossible). While the band itself was splendid, it was ill-served by a deplorable sound system that made listening a chore instead of a pleasure. At one point, it was so bad that Redd was obliged to hold a microphone in front of the horn as alto Kim Richmond soloed. Even so, there were respectable (if barely audible) solos by Redd, trumpeters Ron Stout and Carl Saunders, alto saxophonist Lanny Morgan, tenor Terry Harrington, trombonist Andrew Lippman and pianist Tom Ranier, plus stalwart work at the drum kit by Terry's son, Gerry Gibbs. Toward the end of the concert, Terry, who turns ninety-two in October, bounded onstage to perform Steve Allen's "Playing the Field" and duet with Redd on the standard "What's New," proving that he remains to this day a master of his instrument. A joyous occasion, even if the sparsely populated ballroom (which was the case throughout the rest of the week) and sub-par sound system didn't hold much promise for what was to follow.

Thursday, May 19: After an opening film, the Jeff Hamilton Trio presented the first "official" concert of the tribute, half a dozen songs featuring the leader in top form with pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty having their say as well. This is an excellent (and long-lived) trio, one of the best anywhere, thanks in no small measure to Hamilton's dazzling proficiency with sticks or brushes. Besides lending substance to his showmanship, Hendelman and Luty framed a series of pleasing solos in a program that opened, appropriately enough, with "I Love Being Here with You," followed in order by Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-a-Ning," Claus Ogerman's "Symbiosis," Jimmy Giuffre's "Four Brothers" (trio edition), Rodgers and Hart's "Falling in Love with Love" and Buck Clayton's "Blues for Stephanie." Six tunes total, leaving ample room to stretch. Thankfully, the sound was much improved, but attendance remained on the light side.

"Quiet Riot," the first of the week's panels, was another fine one, with Buddy's long-time friend and colleague (and consummate story-teller) Terry Gibbs interviewed by Ken Poston. A delightful hour that flew by far too quickly, followed in short order by "Harry James: The Buddy Rich Years," featuring a big band directed by drummer Berkowitz with special guest trumpeter Bobby Shew. The music, mostly from the late Big Band Era (Buddy played with Harry's band off and on from 1953-65), included such evergreens as "Don't Be That Way," "Shiny Stockings," "Cherokee," "Opus One," "Flying Home" and "Two O'Clock Jump" among some lesser-known themes like "Cubano Chant," Neal Hefti's "The Creeper," "Sunday Morning" and "Queer Street." Shew soloed brightly on several numbers, with other strong statements by alto Rusty Higgins, trombonist Jack Redmond, trumpeter Jeff Bunnell, tenor Roger Neumann and pianist Geoff Stradling. Richmond added a lively clarinet solo on a tune whose name was inaudible (something to do with Booker T & the MGs). Again, the sound was noticeably improved (though far from crystal clear); and again, attendance was modest, with far less than half the Ballroom filled.

After the dinner break, the tribute to Buddy shifted into high gear with "Big Swing Face," featuring the Buddy Rich Reunion Band directed by Shew. The ensemble was composed for the most part of alumni: trumpeters Shew, Findley, Mike Price and Peter Olstad; saxophonists Richmond, Owens, Richie Cole, Pat LaBarbera and Keith Bishop; trombonist Alan Kaplan, guitarist Barry Zweig and bassist Autorickshaw, with drummer Bernie Dresel sitting in for Buddy and Christian Jacob manning the keyboard. The music itself abounded with riches (no pun intended), from Bill Potts' transcendent "Big Swing Face" to "Love for Sale" (in my opinion, two of the greatest big-band charts ever written), Harry Betts' "Mexicali Nose," Holman's "Ready Mix" and "Keep the Customer Satisfied," Piestrup's "Rim Shot," Phil Wilson's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" and "Basie-cally Blues," Don Rader's swinging arrangement of "Chicago" and a brace of admirable charts by Oliver Nelson: "Step Right Up" and "In a Mellow Tone." The band was cooking throughout, opening with "Big Swing Face" and closing with "Love for Sale," a crowd-pleaser if ever there was one. Although Richmond and Cole delivered respectable solos on "BSF," there was no way they could have matched those on the original album, namely Ernie Watts and Jay Corre. Almost everyone on the band had at least one chance to solo along the way, with Cole, Findley and tenor Pat LaBarbera out front and wailing on "Love for Sale." A lovely way to end an evening.

Before proceeding, I should mention that Betty had a low-grade headache all day Thursday, and by Friday morning found that her recurring cellulitis (a serious disorder, the aftermath of a bout with cancer sixteen years ago) had reappeared. That was the end of the Reunion for her; she spent the next three days in bed resting, watching TV and taking antibiotics. Meanwhile, I was fighting a head cold but for me the show had to go on, and so it did.

Friday, May 20: Film 2, "That's Rich, Man," followed Buddy's career from his time with Norman Granz' Jazz at the Philharmonic to 1966, when his newly re-formed band recorded The Sounds of '66 with Sammy Davis Jr. Trumpeter Saunders, who never played with Buddy's band but would have been an excellent choice as lead trumpet, led his Be Bop Big Band onstage next, performing the music of Carl's longtime friend and mentor, Herbie Phillips. The band was fine, the music engaging, but what it had to do with Buddy Rich is anyone's guess. Be that as it may, Saunders and the band shone brightly on nine of Phillips' captivating charts, among the highlights of which was a trombone "battle" between two of the best, Andy Martin and Scott Whitfield, on "Some Bones of Contention." Phillips had a knack for choosing waggish names for his compositions, and aside from "Bones," those on the menu included "I've Been Where You're Going," "Ding-a-Ling," "I'd Have Written Sooner But I Was Stoned," "I Think I've Got the Blues," "It's April" and "No Blues in Lagano" (I hope I spelled that right). "April," a charming bossa, included solos to match by Saunders, pianist Jacob, alto Bob Sheppard and tenor Doug Webb. Other soloists of note were trumpeters Stout and Bob Summers, alto Rusty Higgins and baritone Bob Efford. Drummer Ray Brinker anchored the band's rock-solid rhythm section (pianist Jacob, bassist Dave Stone).

Following the week's second panel another Rich alum, saxophonist Charles Owens, led the local Luckman Jazz Orchestra onstage for a diverse program that included two themes associated with Duke Ellington ("Sunset and the Mockingbird," "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love"), one each with Count Basie ("One O'Clock Jump") and Charles Mingus ("Fables of Faubus"), Owens' elaborate "One for H.T." (a salute to the late pianist Horace Tapscott) and two more originals, "Cold Duck Time" and "Mean Greens." Although associated with Cal State University-Los Angeles, the Luckman Orchestra is a professional ensemble that has been together for more than a decade. Why Owens chose these particular themes to salute Buddy Rich is a mystery, but the orchestra played them well, even the banal "Fables of Faubus" and saccharine "Sound of Love." Owens (soprano on "One for H.T."), trumpeter Winston Byrd, alto Lee Secard , tenors Lewis Taylor and Keith Fiddmont, trombonist Jacques Voyemant, bassist James Leary (featured on "Sound of Love") and drummer Kenny Elliott were among the reliable soloists. While the over-all sound was at least marginally passable, once again the audience filled far less than half the Ballroom.

After dinner, it was time for legendary composer / arranger Johnny Mandel to raise the baton and usher his big band into the fray. Well, as it turns out, not quite time, as it was almost half an hour past the scheduled start when Mandel finally arrived in the room (tardy, yes, but not that bad for someone who turns ninety-one in November). I was betrayed at the outset by the aberrant sound system which prevented my hearing the name of the band's opening number (acoustics continued to be problematic throughout the concert, which was split into two sets, each about an hour long). Whatever that first tune was, it was a good one, with splendid solos by trumpeter Stout, tenor Tom Luer and guitarist John Chiodino. Of course, any Mandel concert embraces a number of his greatest hits, in this case "Emily," "The Shadow of Your Smile," "Close Enough for Love," "Cinnamon and Clove" and the plaintive ballad "Where Do You Start," featuring Whitfield's exquisite trombone solo. For me, however, the unequivocal highlights were the flag-waving "Not Really the Blues," written for Woody Herman's Herd in the late '40s, and Mandel's explosive arrangement of drummer Tiny Kahn's "TNT," which ended the opening set (I may be addicted to no-holds-barred tempos). Even so, the rest of the program was pleasing and well-played, as Mandel revisited themes from the film I Want to Live (including the seductive "Black Nightgown") and the acclaimed TV series M*A*S*H, "Keester Parade," "Krazy Kat," the lovely ballad "Seascape" (a showpiece for trumpeter Stout) and a closing barn-burner, "Frisco Club," whose name also escaped into the nether regions of the cavernous Ballroom but was later given to me by Whitfield. The band's implacable rhythm section was supervised by young drummer Jake Reed (who would resurface later with the Bill Holman band), steadied by bassist Kenny Wild and burnished by the tasteful pianist John Campbell. Speaking of Campbell, his captivating duet with vocalist Beverly Jensen on Leonard Bernstein's haunting ballad, "Some Other Time," which opened the second half of the concert was another highlight. In sum, a charming session neatly aligned to ensure a peaceful night's sleep, even though Buddy Rich was there only in spirit.

Saturday, May 21: After another film and panel, the only concert outside the Grand Ballroom was held poolside at the Sheraton Gateway. Cunliffe, who played piano on Buddy's band for two years and now heads the Jazz Studies program at Cal State-Fullerton, chose to bring the school's twelve-piece Chamber Jazz Ensemble and perform mostly placid themes from Miles Davis' groundbreaking Birth of the Cool album on a customarily cool, breezy day that left written scores and the music itself blowing in the wind. As Cunliffe and the band apparently had rehearsed and brought with them only half a dozen charts, they simply repeated them to pad the hour. The six tunes were Gerry Mulligan's "Rocker" and "Jeru," Chummy MacGregor's "Moondreams," John Lewis' "Rouge," Davis' "Boplicity" and George Wallington's "Godchild." While the ensemble played them well, the drummer's name on Birth of the Cool was Roach, not Rich, so once again the connection to Buddy was tenuous at best. Compared to past poolside concerts, the audience was sparse.

British-born composer / arranger Pete Myers, whose sole link to Buddy is the aforementioned "Love for Sale," was next up, bringing with him a tight, well-rehearsed orchestra that, to its credit, performed at least four tunes played at various times by Buddy's bands of the '60s and beyond, starting with Horace Silver's galvanic "Sister Sadie," which introduced the muscular tenor saxophone of Rickey Woodard along with baritone Pablo Calagero. "Such Sweet Thunder," the first of two themes written by Ellington / Billy Strayhorn (the other was "Star- Crossed Lovers"), preceded Cedar Walton's shapely "Charmed Circle" and Myers' clever introduction of the band members, having each weigh in, one after another, on the jazz standard "On Broadway" as Myers announced their names. Also clever was the number Myers dubbed "Three Trios" ("Creole Love Call," "Blue Monk," "Freddie Freeloader"), again nicely played by the ensemble with solos by trombonist Nick Daley and alto Lee Secard . Alto Jeremy Lappitt was showcased on "The Hornet," Secard on "Star-Crossed Lovers," flutist Charles Owens on another Horace Silver staple from the Buddy Rich library, "Nuttville." Woodard was in superior form on the ballad "Try a Little Tenderness," as were Owens (tenor sax) and trumpeter Barbara Laronga on "The Chicken." Myers and the band rang down the curtain with—surprise!—"Love for Sale," featuring Secard, Owens (tenor), trumpeter Summers and drummer Berkowitz, sitting in for the band's first-class timekeeper, Mel Lee.

As if that weren't enough to "keep the customer satisfied," two more afternoon concerts followed a panel discussion with Cathy Rich and Greg Potter, the first by composer / arranger John LaBarbera's big band. LaBarbera, who played trumpet in Buddy's ensemble and wrote a number of admirable charts for him, revisited four ("Best Coast," "Wave," "Straight, No Chaser," "Walk on the Wild Side") but not the best of them all, "Dancing Men." As usual, the band was as sharp and snug as could be with perhaps no more than one rehearsal under its belt, thanks in part to the presence of drummer Hamilton who never met a band he couldn't enhance. It helped too to have John's brother Pat in the reed section, Shew quarterbacking the trumpets and the always eloquent Campbell at the keyboard (with Hamilton's band mate Luty on bass). After a full-blown gallop through "Cottontail," the band nailed a LaBarbera original named "Watson's Walk" (something to do with Sherlock Holmes) before returning to Ellington with the leader's handsome arrangement of Juan Tizol's well-traveled "Caravan." Alto Alex Budman was excellent on the ballad "God Bless the Child," which preceded "Best Coast" and trumpeter Jamie Hovorka's feature, the Beatles' "Something." The band closed things out with three more first-rate charts by LaBarbera: "Straight, No Chaser," "Wave" and "Walk on the Wild Side" (LaBarbera's answer to the "West Side Story," "Midnight Cowboy" and "Channel One" suites). Besides those already mentioned, soloists of note included Campbell, Luty, Hamilton, trumpeters Shew and Jeff Bunnell, alto Danny Janklow, tenor Pat LaBarbera, baritone Bob Carr, trombonists Voyemant and Steve Armour. A delightful concert, well-designed and well-performed.

Last but not least on Saturday afternoon was a performance by the celebrated composer / arranger Bill Holman and his long-running rehearsal band. Holman, who was marking his eighty-ninth birthday, planned to open the concert with a dazzling new arrangement of Tommy Dorsey's theme, "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," but when he gave the trombone section its cue what he heard instead were the first few bars of "Happy Birthday to You." After an awkward pause (Bill doesn't like to make a fuss over such things), he repeated the downbeat and this time the band responded with one of the session's highlights, a stellar chart with animated solos by young trombonist Erik Hughes (who was celebrating his twenty-fifth birthday), pianist Rich Eames and drummer Reed. Baritone saxophonist Bob Efford was spotlighted on Holman's facetious "Bari Me Not," which was followed by the lone chart written for Buddy, the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" (dressed up by Hughes and alto Bruce Babad who injected a brief quote from "Eleanor Rigby" into his solo). The versatile Saunders, who normally plays only lead trumpet on Holman's band, was given a rare solo shot with tenor saxophonist Webb on "Sweet Spot," which preceded Sonny Rollins' Caribbean charmer, "St. Thomas," and a slow blues written way back in 1958, "No Heat." Solos on the first were by Eames, trombonist Whitfield and trumpeter Stout, on the second by trumpeters Stout and Summers, Webb, Babad and Whitfield. After ending the concert with his eccentric, barn-burning arrangement of "After You've Gone" (written for the Woody Herman band), Holman changed course and returned for an encore, Johnny Mandel's iconic theme from "M*A*S*H." (which Mandel's band had played the day before). A perfect entree to the evening's dinner break.

By eight o'clock, an audience that looked to be the largest of the week so far had filed into the Grand Ballroom to see and hear "The Buddy Rich Band Featuring Cathy Rich," a performance that might have more aptly been dubbed "The Greg Potter Show." After a couple of ear-splitting numbers during which drummer Potter displayed much of Buddy's technique but none of his tact, the audience started voting with its feet, and by the time Cathy Rich came onstage (after four songs), a sizable number had said their goodbyes. Rich, apparently unfazed by the exodus, asked how everyone was doing, but when someone in the audience (no doubt expressing the feelings of many others) shouted, "Fire the drummer!" she appeared visibly shaken. When she asked that the request be repeated, it was. "So that's where we are," Rich muttered before launching into the first of her two numbers, a forgettable (but nonetheless appropriate) tune called "That's Enough." Potter, either unaware of the call for his scalp or unaffected by it, kept hammering away as Rich segued into a recitation of her "greatest hit," "The Beat Goes On" (which everyone knew would hold true as long as her drummer remained the same). Turning to Ken Poston, who was seated behind me, I quipped, "We shouldn't fire the drummer; we should take up a collection and buy him some brushes" (though it's unclear that Potter would have known what to do with them). As for the music, the band opened with John LaBarbera's classic, "Dancing Men," and rumbled onward with Sammy Nestico's "Ya Gotta Try," Joe Roccisano / Pete Christlieb's "Hookin' It" and another number whose name I didn't catch before Rich's vocals, continuing afterward with "Keep the Customer Satisfied" (too late for that), Bob Florence's "Willowcrest" and another number whose name I can't recall (memorable only for the fact that Potter's drumming was so thunderous the whole band was playing off-key and didn't know it, as they couldn't hear one another above the din, even though some had inserted ear plugs) before closing with the relatively laid-back "Love for Sale." As the ballroom emptied I envisioned young Potter's first music lesson, wherein I pictured the teacher saying, "Gregory, this is a drum. Hit it as hard and as often as you can and people will applaud." Or, as it turns out, they might simply cover their ears and bid you farewell.

Sunday, May 22: After the week's fourth and final film retrospective it was time for another of the Reunion's premier events, Sunday brunch in the Grand Ballroom with music by the Gene Krupa Orchestra, directed by Michael Berkowitz, and the Buddy Rich Reunion Band led by Bobby Shew. The Ballroom was rearranged for the occasion with a dozen spacious tables upfront for those who chose to eat and seats further back for those who came only to listen to the bands. The food was splendid, as was the music. Berkowitz' group performed a dozen numbers, opening with the Krupa staple "Leave Us Leap" and closing with a warp-speed rendition of Rodgers and Hart's "Lover." Trumpeter Bunnell was featured on "Rockin' Chair," tenor Dave Moody on "Dark Eyes," trumpeter Brian Swartz on "After You've Gone," soprano Fred Laurence Selden on "The Carioca," Berkowitz on "Wire Brush Stomp." "Lover" was preceded by the lyrical "Melody in F," with sunny solos by alto Higgins, trombonist Voyemant, tenor Efford (sitting in for Terry Harrington) and trumpeter Bobby Burns. Among the Reunion Band's highlights was Cole's ambrosial alto solo on "If You Could See Me Now," John LaBarbera's "Sassy Strut," "Backwoods Sideman" and "Space Shuttle," a reprise of Silver's "Sister Sadie" and two handsome charts by Holman, "Groove" and "Winning the West," both written for Buddy's band. The gut feeling was that everyone left with both appetites satisfied.

Two panel sessions followed the brunch (as noted earlier, they were among the week's high points), after which alto Richie Cole secured center stage in the Ballroom with the Alto Madness Orchestra (which is actually a septet) for the Reunion's most quizzical concert. Not that the music wasn't well-played; it simply had nothing to do with Buddy Rich. The septet performed, for example, two TV themes (from The Tonight Show and I Love Lucy), the Frankie Avalon hit, "Venus," Louis Alter's "Manhattan Serenade" and Cole Porter's "C'est Magnifique." Cole unwrapped a pair of his own compositions, "I Have a Home in Pittsburgh" (which he does) and "Happy Valentine's Day, Candace," written (and played in May) for a friend (and possible more-than-that) who was in the audience. Besides Cole, the members of the septet were trumpeter Saunders, trombonist Whitfield, the great George Young (largely wasted on tenor sax), pianist Lou Forestieri, bassist Marshall Hawkins and drummer Dave Tull. Cole invited a friend, Tony Russell, onstage to sing "On a Clear Day," and Russell brought with him his own trumpeter, Mike Price, who later joined the group for "The Swinging Macarena." Cole ended the session by dueting with Forestieri on "Bein' Green," a song that Buddy actually sang on one of his albums (so the concert did have something to do with Buddy after all).

After supper, the four-day Reunion ended with a concert that could have been another of its high points: the Bob Mintzer Big Band. After all, Mintzer, a prolific composer / arranger, had played with and written for Buddy; surely he would be dusting off such admirable charts as "Party Time," "Tales of Rhoda Rat," "No Jive," "Kong" or "Funk City-Ola." Wrong. "That was then," said Mintzer, as he proceeded to regale his audience with half a dozen jazz / rock themes (from " [his] latest album," of course) and one other, the more straightforward "Runferyerlife!" Once again, the only link to Buddy's music was that the bandleader had played in his band. But Mintzer has moved on, he insisted, and so should we. After all, there's nothing inherently wrong with "Land of Oak," "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah," "It's Your Thing," "Civil War," "Sing a Simple Song" or "Truth Spoken Here"—is there? Well, in the margin beside my scribbled notes, I wrote only one word: "boring." That may have been caused in part by my disappointment that Mintzer had chosen to travel the easy road, reprising songs from his new CD without considering what his audience (in town for a Buddy Rich Reunion) might prefer. Others may relate well to the Isley Brothers or Sly and the Family Stone; I don't. On the one hand, it's probably a generational disconnect; on the other, many of those in the audience looked to be about my age (or even older), so I doubt that jazz / rock is their bag either. Mintzer's band, it should be noted, was quite good, with a number of its sidemen from the University of Southern California, where the leader teaches. Included were two members of Mintzer's long-time working group, the Yellowjackets: pianist Russell Ferrante and drummer William Kennedy. But great bands do not great concerts make, and this finale was less than persuasive, to say the least.

So there you have it: "Time Check: A Buddy Rich Reunion," with all its highs and lows, ups and downs, ins and outs, and (we hope) most everything in between. God bless Ken Poston and the LAJI for continuing to defy the odds and host these semi-annual big-band orgies, which trace their origin to "Back to Balboa" in 1991. By "the odds," we mean not only the logistical travail and long hours spent putting them together but dealing as well with a steadily waning audience, as older fans are no longer able to attend —for financial reasons, illness or worse —and aren't being replaced by an estranged younger generation that has been weaned on rock, rap, heavy metal, or myriad other forms of contemporary "music." Poston, ever the optimist, was already handing out notices about the next LAJI enterprise, "Stan Kenton Milestones," to be held November 2-5 (with a bonus trip to Redlands University on November 1). And so it seems that the show will go on, at least for now. And for that we owe Poston and the LAJI three cheers and a hearty round of applause.



Buddy Rich Big Band Report Jack Bowers Terry Gibbs Chuck Redd Johnny Mandel Bill Holman bob mintzer Pete Myers Bobby Shew Carl Saunders Charles Owens Bill Cunliffe. Greg Potter Jeff Hamilton Harry James Michael Berkowitz Artie Shaw Tommy Dorsey Gene Krupa Louie Bellson Ed Shaughnessy Chuck Findley Barry Zweig Mike Price Pat LaBarbera Alan Kaplan Woody Herman Kim Richmond Ron Stout Lanny Morgan Terry Harrington Andrew Lippman Tom Ranier Gerry Gibbs Steve Allen Tamir Hendelman Christoph Luty Thelonious Monk Claus Ogerman Jimmy Giuffre Buck Clayton Neal Hefti Rusty Higgins Jack Redmond Jeff Bunnell Roger Neumann Geoff Stradling Pete Olstad Richie Cole Alan Kaplan Rick Shaw Bernie Dresel Christian jacob Bill Potts Phil Wilson Don Rader Oliver Nelson ernie watts Jay Corre Sammy Davis Jr Andy Martin Scott Whitfield Bob Sheppard Doug Webb Bob Summers Bob Efford Ray Brinker Dave Stone duke ellington Count Basie Charles Mingus Horace Tapscott Winston Byrd Lee Secard Keith Fiddmont Jacques Voyemant James Leary Kenny Elliot Tom Luer Tiny Kahn Jake Reed Ken Wild John Campbell Miles Davis Gerry Mulligan John Lewis George Wallington Horace Silver Rickey Woodard Billy Strayhorn Cedar Walton Jeremy Lappitt Barbara Laronga Mel Lee Juan Tizol Alex Budman Danny Janklow Bob Carr Steve Armour Erik Hughes Rich Eames Bruce Babad Sonny Rollins Sammy Nestico Joe Roccisano Pete Christlieb Bob Florence Brian Swartz Fred Selden George Young Lou Forestieri Marshall Hawkins Dave Tull Russell Ferrante William Kennedy

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