[originally posted October 2011]
Buddy Rich – Swingin’ Big Band
Excuse the repetition – as with selecting Bert Jansch’s sampler album as a ‘Top Fifty’ after his recent sad death and the memory this prompted of listening to that album so much when younger, exploring old jazz records these last two days has prompted my return to celebrate this live recording of Buddy Rich’s stonking big band sound and his own phenomenal drumming.
Recorded live at the Club Chez, Hollywood California, this album is a lot of fun. The audience response throughout adds to the album’s energy. There are sharp sax solos by Jay Corre [as on the Stevie Wonder song Up Tight] to satisfy that incipient love of the instrument I have already described, as well as some great trombone work by John Boice on My Man’s Gone Now, and Jim Trimble on the brilliant West Side Story Medley.
My absolute favourite on the album is the medley at 10 minutes of big band excellence. Rich orchestrates a booming opening blast with screaming brass and his drumming laying down a driving beat for Corre’s saxophone to ride early on. Rich uses the drums to signal the song and mood shifts within the whole and there is a beautiful midway trombone delivery of Somewhere that leads to an orchestral crescendo climbing to a Rich drum roll then brass/drum duel sparking a drum solo victory that ignites the audience and this listener. This track closes side 2 of the album but I recently bought a cd copy that adds another eight tracks, Apples including more rolling Rich solos, and a sweet ballad Lament for Lester.
When studying for my A levels at then Ipswich Civic College, students had to chose, as I recall, a ‘Liberal Arts’ course and I naturally chose Music Appreciation. To this day I’m pretty sure I was one of the few who really wanted to be there and enjoyed the range of music, from classical to contemporary, that was presented by the music teacher. Each week students could bring in albums of their choice to be played, and I was one of the keenies who did, bringing in for one session this Buddy Rich album and being, quite likely, the only one there who thought as we listened it was a damn fine and far out choice. And I still do today, so here it is in my existential Top Fifty.