Very Alive at Ronnie Scott’s
BGO Records BGOCD 785
1. Moments Notice
2. Watson’s Walk
3. St Mark’s Square
4. Little Train
6. The Words
7. Dancing Men
8. Just Buddy Rich
3. In A Mellotone
4. Two Bass Hit
5. Buddy Rich Introduces
6. That’s Enough
7. Time Being
8. Buddy Rich Again
Buddy Rich – Drums
Pat LaBarbera, Don Englert – Tenor sax, soprano sax, flute
Brian A. Grivna – Alto sax, flute
Jimmy Mosher – Alto sax, soprano sax, flute
Joe Calo – Baritone sax, soprano sax, flute
Lin Biviano, Jeff Stout, Wayne Naus, John Deflon – Trumpets
Bruce Paulson, Tony DiMaggio – Trombones
John Leys – Bass trombone
BOB DOGAN _ PIANO
paul Kondziela – Bass
I was lucky enough to be around when Buddy Rich formed his new big band in 1966 and brought it to Britain – at a time when big bands were not exactly a surefire way of making a profit. But Buddy was unique: a remarkable drummer who had played in such big bands as those led by Tommy Dorsey and Harry James, as well as performing in numerous small groups: notably on recordings organised by Norman Granz. He managed to keep his new big band together until 1974, and this double album was recorded at Ronnie Scott’s London club in 1971.
This album captures the sheer excitement of Buddy’s band in full flight before an enthusiastic audience. The sound quality (recording engineer: Bob Auger) is remarkably good for a recording in a comparatively cramped club, and it conveys the way that Rich’s drumming propelled the band forward with unstoppable power. The opening Moments Notice illustrates this to the full, with tightly-phrased ensembles plus dynamic solos from altoist Jimmy Mosher, trumpeter Jeff Stout, and tenorist Pat LaBarbera (who, along with trumpeter Liv Biviano and trombonist Bruce Paulson, is the most predominantly featured soloist here). The band was certainly an exciting unit but it is Buddy’s drums that catch the attention, for the major contribution they make to the music. He was in some ways an old-fashioned drummer, playing four-in-a-bar on the bass drum, but his accents are spot-on and his drum breaks are masterpieces of precision and sheer rightness.
The presence of John Coltrane’s Moments Notice illustrates another strength of the band: its readiness to take on contemporary themes like this and Miles Davis’s Milestones, as well as such show tunes as Superstar -= in which Buddy Rich exhibits his ability to play a thrusting jazz-rock rhythm. The band also features original compositions by Pat LaBarbera and Bill Holman, not forgetting older jazz classics like Duke Ellington’s In a Mellotone and the Dizzy Gillespie Two Bass Hit.
The only weak spot is the introduction of Buddy’s daughter, Kathy, doing her best at singing That’s Enough, although one doubts if she would have got a hearing if she hadn’t been related to the bandleader. But one can forgive such peccadilloes (Kathy’s track only lasts for two minutes, anyway) because her father was one of the greatest drummers in jazz. He is featured more in short breaks than in long drum solos but his dexterity and time-keeping are continuously impressive. Just sample his bass-drum work in Dancing Men. And when he finally does a long drum solo (in Time Being), his control of the drum kit is phenomenal. He also breaks in from time to time with his laconic introductions and ironic remarks. But it’s the music for which jazz fans should buy this double CD – especially as it is very reasonably priced.