Monday, July 13, 2015

Buddy Rich: “Birdland” (2015) CD Review

As probably everyone knows (at least everyone who would read this review), Buddy Rich was a phenomenal jazz drummer. He played with Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey, among others, before becoming a band leader himself. Birdland contains previously unreleased live material, including a fantastic rendition of the album’s title track. This CD contains liner notes by band member Alan Gauvin, who also mixed and edited this project. In the liner notes he offers thoughts and memories of Buddy Rich, as well as information on the equipment he used to record these performances. What is lacking is information on the precise dates and venues of these recordings. We know they’re between April 1976 and early 1980, because that is the time frame Alan Gauvin was in the band, but it would be nice to know the exact dates. But, whatever, what’s important is that these tracks contain some incredible performances. The sound isn’t perfect, but in a way that sort of adds to the raw, live experience of this album. As Gauvin explains in the liner notes, he made these recordings for himself, not originally intending to release them. But I am so glad he changed his mind on that score.

The disc opens with “Mexicali Nose,” which kicks off appropriately with a little action on drums by Buddy Rich – the cymbals, specifically – and then gets off to an energetic pace. There are two brief drum solos in the middle, and also some nice work on piano by Barry Keiner. “Mexicali Nose” was composed by Harry Betts. It’s followed by “Birdland,” which begins a bit slowly, with some nice little teases and moments, but then becomes an absolutely delicious beast, some funky jazz. Check out the horns around the four minute mark. What a fantastic jam. “Birdland” was written by Josef Erich Zawinul, and was originally recorded by Weather Report in 1977.

“Just Friends” is a jazz standard from the 1930s, composed by John Klenner and Samuel M. Lewis, and the version contained on this disc is excellent. It begins sweetly, as you’d expect, with a wonderful lead on piano, which becomes more playful and fanciful as it goes on.  That’s followed by a cool bass solo by Tom Warrington, and then by some humorous drumming by Buddy Rich. Seriously, it had me (and the audience) laughing. And yet the track retains its sweetness, its heart throughout. This disc also contains a nice, pretty rendition of “God Bless The Child,” written by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr. The highlight here is Turk Mauro’s work on baritone sax, but this is a really strong version overall.

There is some more humor to Buddy Rich’s solos on “I Hear A Rhapsody.” He is clearly having a good time. Then “Three Day Suckers” opens with some wild drumming. This is one of my favorite tracks, featuring a great, powerful jam, coming at you like a speeding train set on fire by possessed cannibals. And check out Steve Marcus’ lead on sax. Fantastic. The album concludes with a fun cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Keep The Customer Satisfied,” from their 1970 album, Bridge Over Troubled Water.

CD Track List
  1. Mexicali Nose
  2. Birdland
  3. Milestones
  4. Just Friends
  5. CTA
  6. God Bless The Child
  7. Moments Notice
  8. I Hear A Rhapsody
  9. Three Day Suckers
  10. Parthenia
  11. Keep The Customer Satisfied 
Birdland was released on May 26, 2015 through Lightyear Entertainment, Lobitos Creek Ranch and Scabeba Entertainment.

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