Buddy Rich - Birdland
(Wienerworld 536546223. CD Review by Eric Ford)
The film Whiplash wasn't positively received by musicians in general but it has sparked a new wave of interest in Buddy Rich and in big band drumming, with the result that alto saxophonist Alan Gauvin's private gig recordings from his April 1976 - early 1980 tenure with Buddy's band are now being publicly released for the first time. A CD entitled The Solos appeared a few months ago but this release concentrates on complete performances by the band on pieces with no or very brief solos from Rich. Considering the fact that they were recorded on a Sony tape deck with two stereo microphones, the sound is surprisingly good.
Gauvin's liner-notes shed light on the experience of working with Rich and are pleasingly informal. Whether or not you agree with his assertion that these are ''the most exciting recordings of Buddy's band ever offered for sale'' or that it was the best incarnation of the Rich band, it's certainly a super-tight and very ferocious one and it's easy to believe that Buddy was well-pleased with it. As Gauvin points out, this is the result of a happy combination of musicians working seven nights a week for more than forty weeks each year - an unimaginable feat for a big band these days.
Amongst the personnel are Bob Mintzer, Steve Marcus and exuberant lead trumpeter Dave Stahl, but of all the horn-players only Marcus gets lengthy solos (on soprano). However thanks to the inclusion of two trio tracks we have the pleasure of hearing sparkling pianist Barry Keiner stretching out (on Just Friends and I Hear A Rhapsody) and this is a reminder of just how sad it is that he died on the band bus in 1980, aged 30. Gauvin hints that there are more releases to come, in which case it's to be hoped there are more great examples of Keiner's playing to be made public.
The big band tracks are Mexicali Nose and Birdland - both taken very briskly - plus Milestones, CTA, God Bless The Child (featuring Turk Mauro on baritone), Moment's Notice, Three Day Suckers, Parthenia (composed and arranged by Shelly Manne) and Keep The Customer Satisfied. There's no doubt that Buddy Rich fans will want to add this new material to their collections - some of these versions are better than those on the ''official'' recordings and there's the bonus of the trio tracks. For newcomers it might be good to acquire this in conjunction with the great albums from the late sixties.