Buddy Rich - drums; Greg Kogan - piano; Lloyd Michels - trumpet; Ross Konikoff - trumpet; Charles Camilleri - trumpet; Richard Hurwitz - trumpet; Pete Yellin - alto sax; Bill Blount - alto sax; Steve Marcus - tenor sax; Bob Mintzer - tenor sax; Roger Rosenberg - baritone sax; Barry Maur - trombone; Gerald Chamberlain - trombone; Anthony Salvatori - bass trombone; Wayne Wright - guitar; Ben Brown - bass
On a Carnegie Hall bill with his former boss, Swing era bandleader and trumpeter Harry James, Buddy Rich came out smoking with his new jazz-funk orchestra, which at the time of this June 29, 1975 concert had only been together for four months. The eight tunes here are executed with uncanny precision by his disciplined outfit, which includes such heavyweight soloists as tenor saxophonists Steve Marcus and Bob Mintzer, baritone saxophonist Roger Rosenberg, trumpeters Lloyd Michels and Ross Konikoff, and trombonists Barry Maur and Gerald Chamberlain. And the proceedings are fueled by the inimitable chops and drive of the legendary bandleader, regarded by many as "The World's Greatest Drummer."
Performing material from their 1975 Groove Merchant album, Big Band Machine, Rich's swinging aggregation comes out charging hard on the uptempo "Ya Gotta Try," which features some rapid-fire tenor exchanges mid-song between Mintzer and Marcus. Following a false start, during which time Rich banters in good-natured manner with the audience, they jump into a crisp, funky reading of the jaunty blues "Senator Sam," composed by the former Basie arranger and tenor player Ernie Wilkins. This relaxed shuffle is the perfect vehicle for some potent solos by trombonists Maur and Chamberlain. Mintzer also digs deep here on a remarkably fluid, blues-tinged solo featuring some daring intervallic leaps into the high register of his horn. Marcus also offers a couple choruses here of electric alto sax, which allow him to play a note and the octave below that note at the same time.
Their inventive rendition of Miles Davis' "All Blues" is taken at a brisk clip and features some swaggering counter melodies in the horn section. Trumpeters Michels and Konikoff turn in bristling high-note solos here while alto saxophonist Pete Yellin adds some heat of his own to the swinging proceedings. A gorgeous arrangement of Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" is followed by a letter-perfect reading of Fred Steiner's zany "Rocky and Bullwinkle Theme" from the popular and devilishly clever cartoon from the '60s. They deliver an ambitious medley from The Who's Tommy that includes a swinging "Eyesight to the Blind," a beautiful balladic version of "See Me, Feel Me," a bristling uptempo rendition of "Miracle Cure" that features some bold tenor soloing from Marcus and a rousing "We're Not Gonna Take It." This showpiece, which appears on Rich's Big Band Machine, also includes a show-stopping drum solo from the quick-handed leader. They continue their Carnegie set with an invigorating, funky rendition of "Ease On Down the Road" from the Broadway musical, The Wiz, and conclude with Rich's most requested piece, the amazing medley of tunes from the Stephen Sondheim-Leonard Bernstein Broadway musical West Side Story, which originally appeared on 1966's Swingin' New Big Band and includes the tunes "Cool," "Something's Coming" and "Somewhere."
At the conclusion of this stellar performance, Rich told the audience, "I've had some great bands in the past several years and I've worked with the best. And this band tonight is the best band I've ever played with."
Buddy Rich's career spanned seven decades - from his earliest gig on the vaudeville circuit and on Broadway as four-year-old "Traps the Drum Wonder" to collaborations in the '40s and '50s with jazz legends like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins to his own lengthy tenure as a big band leader through the '60s, '70s and into the '80s. Rich's uncanny speed and precision, along with his phenomenal endurance, marked him as one of the great instrumental virtuosos of the 20th century. And his larger-than-life personality, both on and off the bandstand, helped elevate him to bona fide superstar status. Well known for his tough persona and caustic wit, Rich was a favorite on several television talk shows during the '60s and '70s, including "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson," "The Mike Douglas Show," "The Dick Cavett Show" and "The Merv Griffin Show." During these appearances, audiences were entertained by Rich's sparring with the hosts and putdowns of various pop singers. One memorable anecdote that sums up Rich's incisive wit: Before undergoing surgery, he was asked by the attending nurse if he was allergic to anything. Buddy's answer was quick, concise and cutting: "Yeah, country & western music!"
Born in Brookyn on September 30, 1917, Rich's parents were vaudevillians who recognized his uncanny ability to keep a steady beat with spoons at the age of one. Buddy actually began playing drums when he was 18 months old and was later billed as "Traps the Drum Wonder" when he was all of four years old. At the peak of Rich's childhood career, he was reportedly the second-highest paid child entertainer in the world (after Jackie Coogan, who played opposite Charlie Chaplin in the 1921 silent film, The Kid, and later played Uncle Fester on TV's "The Adams Family"). At age 11, young Buddy was performing as a bandleader, though he had received no formal drum instruction. His earliest jazz drumming influences included Chick Webb, Gene Krupa, Dave Tough and Count Basie's drummer, "Papa" Jo Jones.
Rich broke into the jazz scene in 1937 with Joe Marsala's group and subsequently worked with such prominent players as trumpeter Bunny Berigan (1938) and clarinetist-big band leader Artie Shaw (1939). From 1939 to 1945, he worked in Tommy Dorsey's big band, where he met the up-and-coming singer Frank Sinatra. Rich was a ubiquitous figure on Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts during the 1950s, performing with jazz royalty, including Art Tatum, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Lionel Hampton and Lester Young.
He also worked in bands led by Harry James, Les Brown and Charlie Ventura as well as leading his own band. Rich finally put together his own big band in 1966 and he continued to lead a large ensemble up until his death on April 2, 1987 following surgery for a malignant brain tumor. Longtime friend, Frank Sinatra, spoke a touching eulogy at Rich's funeral. Today, Buddy Rich is remembered as one of history's greatest musicians. According to jazz drumming legend Gene Krupa, Rich was "The greatest drummer ever to have drawn breath." (Milkowski)