Saturday and September's finale bring a 100th birthday salute to the man more than a few humans believe to be the single greatest drummer ever to live.
It's really very rare to be able to say something like that; it almost always crosses into hyperbole. The greatest drummer? You could get a different answer on that question from 100 different people... the drums are such a ubiquitous instrument, after all, and so many have played them so well and so memorably.
Yeah, that's nice. Everyone has a favorite skinsman, nothing unusual about taste. One thing though: anyone's favorite drummer they could name might well name today's centurion as theirs. He's as influential a player on any instrument as any person in the history of music.
Gosh I am happy with bold statements this morning, aren't I? The history of music? Any instrument??? Wow... there must be Goof Juice in my chocolate milk, eh? But hang on.
The truth is he's long dead for thirty years now, but even deceased he could find fifty kids in the park that could play better than you... and that's without a rhythm section! I believe the words are "Get outta my fuckin' bus!" He'll take you as far as Detroit, and you got it. And a right to your brain, if you want it.
Nope, today's birthday boy did not mess around, nor did he suffer the fools of life gladly. There was probably never a more irascibly committed bandleader in the annals of 20th century lore. He heard every mistake, and would dress you down for clams you didn't even play. We know this because there are recordings of his animated displeasure, from various and sundry tour buses of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Those bus tapes -- surreptitiously made by his band members -- of him viciously deriding them for onstage miscues are probably the most legendary -- and legendarily hilarious -- items traded and laughed about amongst musicians, even to this day. This is not someone on whose bad side you wanted to tread, trust me... in addition to his batterie skills, he was also a Black Belt in Karate.
He began playing spoons at age one, and his parents (entertainers in their own right) thankfully got him onto the drums as a small child. By age 11 he was leading a big band. By age 20 in 1937, when his career really took off, he was already among the most in-demand players of all time.
Over his roughly 50 years as a professional musician, he helped codify the entire modern vocabulary of his instrument, and is responsible for technical innovations drummers will employ forever. His ultra-high-energy approach is not just the inspiration for a million human drummers... he is also the basis of Animal from The Muppet Show.
His life would make a crazy movie or documentary or twelve. Let's just say there's never gonna be another drummer -- or person, for that matter -- quite like Buddy Rich.
It's almost impossible to believe he is 100 years old today, or that he has indeed been gone from us for three decades already. It's pretty obvious his influence will go on for a whole lot of centuries.
To honor the special centenary day of this beloved beatsmith, I've got a couple of rare Buddy Movies for you this morning. One was taped for Norwegian TV in 1970 and the other for Danish TV in the mid-1980s, towards the end of Buddy's run. Both were captured as HD webstream rebroadcasts and feature the Maestro driving a large ensemble to feverishly swinging heights of expression, as was his norm.
Buddy Rich Orchestra
Newport Jazz Festival '70
01 Norwegian Wood
02 Basically Blues
03 Preach and Teach
Total time: 18:58
Richie Cole, Jimmy Mosher - alto saxophone & flute
Pat LaBarbera, Don Englert - tenor saxophone & flute
Joe Calo - baritone saxophone
Joe Giorgianni, John Madrid, John DeFlon, Ernie Jones, Danny Hayes - trumpet & flugelhorn
Rick Stepton, Jim Trimble, Tony Lada - trombone
Dave MacRae - organ
Rick Laird - bass
Buddy Rich - drums
FLV file of a digital broadcast from the NRK-TV site
Buddy Rich Big Band
Copenhagen Jazz Festival
01 Drum Intro
02 Basically Blues
03 Love for Sale
04 ‘Round Midnight
05 Winding Way
06 In a Mellow Tone
07 Groovin' Hard
08 Bugle Call Rag
Total time: 40:54
Paul Phillips, Eric Miyashiro, Michael Lewis, Joe Kaminsky - trumpet & flugelhorn
Scott Bliege, James Martin, Michael Davis - trombone
Mark Pinto, Bob Bowlby - alto saxophone & flute
Brian Sjoerdinga - tenor saxophone & flute
Steve Marcus - tenor & soprano saxophones
Jay Craig - baritone saxophone
Bill Cunliffe - piano
Dave Carpenter - electric bass
Buddy Rich - drums
FLV file of a digital web rebroadcast from Denmark
both shows zipped together
748 MB FLV here
Watchers will watch out for keyboards heavyweight Dave MacCrae -- later of several Jazz-Rock bands like Matching Mole and Soft Machine -- and soon-to-be Mahavishnu bassist Rick Laird in the 1970 set, and super sax whiz Steve Marcus from Fusion heroes Count's Rock Band in the 1986 one.
That'll do it for September for me... stay tuned for a wild October as we celebrate the fourth -- yes, it's been four years already! -- anniversary of this page. There'll be a 100th birthday tribute -- the second in ten days -- as well as some really strange treats coming out of the cloud like a surreal autumn rain.
But for now I'd suggest you check into these old TV shows and recall precisely how much dominion over modern drumming the astonishing Buddy Rich -- born this day in 1917! -- still enjoys over the percussionists of the present. See? He tries to talk to you like a human being, but you talk back all the time!!!--J.
9.30.1917 - 4.2.1987