Joe Ascione’s “buddy” is surnamed Rich, and this Nagel–Heyer release is Ascione’s enthusiastic and colorful salute to the drumming wizardry of one of his heroes and role models, Bernard “Buddy” Rich. Ascione, 35 years old when this recording was made (in November ’96), first encountered Rich via recordings in the early ’70s, an experience he recalls with wide–eyed amazement: “I could not believe what I was hearing! . . . I imagined myself listening to several drummers rolled up into one playing at 78 rpm’s!” Ascione soon became one of Buddy’s most ardent admirers, once even following Rich’s big band from gig to gig and helping set up the drums, and when the chance came years later to document on record his admiration for Buddy, he quickly grabbed it and assembled an all–star cast of like–minded musicians to pay suitable homage to the legendary skin–walloper. All of the songs performed by Ascione’s well–endowed octet were recorded by Rich at one time or another in a wide variety of instrumental frameworks. The music is emphatically mainstream and lyrical, the ensemble loose and swinging. Trumpeter Sandke, who seems to fit snugly in any environment in which he is placed, leads an artful four–member horn section that includes trombonist Barrett and saxophonists Ogilvie and the veteran Billy Mitchell who cut his teeth in Dizzy Gillespie’s dynamic big band of the mid–’50s. Shane and Chirillo plug any gaps in the substructure (with Shane sounding at times like Teddy Wilson), while bassist Bob Haggart, who passed away last year at age 85, shows how sorely he’ll be missed — his resonant accents serve as an unerring compass for his bandmates. As for Ascione, his close surveillance of Rich has paid handsome dividends; he comes out smoking on “Cottontail” and plays throughout in a way that would have made Buddy very happy (in other words, giving every song his absolute best). All of the material is well–known, except for sparkling originals by Ascione (“J&B’s Bag”) and Sandke (“Blues #5”). Nothing out of the ordinary, simply first–rate mainstream Jazz played with consistent poise and vitality. As the song says, “I like it, how about you?”
Track listing: Cottontail; My Buddy; J&B’s Bag; Here’s That Rainy Day; Limehouse Blues; Hi Fly; Nica’s Dream; Straight No Chaser; Soft Winds; I Want to Be Happy; Love for Sale; Blues #5 (Blues for Kurtchen) (74:12).
Joe Ascione, drums; Randy Sandke, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Brian Ogilvie, clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax; Billy Mitchell, tenor sax; Mark Shane, piano; James Chirillo, guitar; Bob Haggart, bass.
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