Friday, May 15, 2009
Many fine players have taken their place behind the kit over the years but when it comes right down to it, Buddy Rich was in a class of his own. Fastest hands to ever grasp sticks, by far. One of my most prized possessions is a recording that he did with Art Tatum and Lionel Hampton in the mid 50s. He primarily plays with brushes throughout and it's still one of the most remarkable performances of restraint and taste that I have ever heard.
Carrying the torch for big band jazz, he regularly promoted young musicians to sit on the bandstand with him. The group he assembled in 1978 (Killer Force) was one of his finest and I have watched the performance at the Hague from that period far too many times to even count. Brilliant.
Noted for his incredible technique as well as being outspoken, I think that the harder edge of his personality may have resulted in a less than fair shake when it comes his ranking amongst jazz musicians in the 20th century. Just listen to one of those infamous tapes of Rich cursing out his band members following a less than stellar set. Despite this, his obvious genius has transcended any criticism of his mercurial temperament. One of the great disappointments that I have suffered was having tickets to one of his upcoming shows in 1987 and learning of his sudden passing. I would have loved to have seen him in person.
Buddy's take on "Uncle Albert, Admiral Halsey". This arrangement is fantastic.
A "Non-Animal" drum battle with Ed Shaughnessy.
Amazingly, his skills never eroded with time and only became sharper. Right up to his death, this legendary player burned with the intensity of a man half his age.