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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Lightyear/Lobitos Creek Ranch



1. Mexicali Nose

2. Birdland

3. Milestones

4. Just Friends

5. CTA

6. God Bless the Child

7. Moment's Notice

8. I Hear a Rhapsody

9. Three Day Suckers

10. Parthenia

11. Keep the Customer Satisfied

Alan Gauvin – Alto sax, soprano sax, flute

Bill Blount or Frank Basile – Alto sax

Steve Marcus –Tenor sax, soprano sax

Bob Mintzer – Tenor sax, flute

Turk Mauro – Baritone sax

Rick Stepton, Dale Kirkland, David Boyle – Trombones

Dave Stahl, Dean Pratt, Ross Konikoff, Jon Marshal or Waymon Reed – Trumpets

Barry Keiner – Piano

Tom Warrington or Jon Burr – Bass

Buddy Rich – Drums, leader

Tracks 1, 7, 10, 11

Chuck Wilson replaces Bill Blount

John Mosca or Clint Charmin replaces Rick Stepton or Dale Kirkland

Chuck Schmidt replaces Dave Stahl

Ed Eby replaces David Boyle

Bob Kaye replaces Barry Keiner on track 10

Jim Pritchard replaces Turk Mauro

Gary Pribek replaces Bob Mintzer on tracks 1, 10, 11

Dave Kennedy replaces Ross Konikoff or Jon Marshall

Why do most drummers idolise Buddy Rich? It’s not for his sweet patience, as he could be a difficult and short-tempered leader. But his occasional outbursts were in all likelihood designed mainly to keep the band at a high level of brilliance, leading its performances to be noted for their “precision and ferocity” (an apt phrase used in the sleeve-notes). The sleeve-notes omit the dates when these recordings were made, although we can assume it was in the late seventies, but they depict the band as one of Buddy’s finest ever.

His groups have always been remarkable for their tightness. Playing fine arrangements by the likes of Bill Holman and even Mike Gibbs, their impact is extraordinary. The engine driving the ensemble (and I do mean “driving”) was Buddy Rich himself, whose intense drum breaks seemed to have become even more masterly and punctilious over the years. Alan Gauvin, a sax player with the Buddy Rich Band from 1976 to 1980, recorded its performances without intending the results to go the market. Engineer Tom Swift prepared the recordings for release on this disc – and possibly some more CDs in the future.

Buddy was still basically an “old school” drummer: playing four-in-a-bar on his high bass drum. But he could also manage jazz-fusion rhythms as in the title-track, which is a powerful reading of Joe Zawinul’s jazz standard, adding a little extra bite to Weather Report’s version. Steve Marcus’s soprano sax solo is a miracle of whirling notes and upward runs. Buddy Rich is mentioned in a recent film called Whiplash about a drummer determined to practise until he gets as good as he can. Buddy’s drum interjections are like whiplashes.

Buddy doesn’t take all the limelight in his band. Milestones gives solos to five band members, with particularly impressive contributions from trumpeter Ross Konikoff and pianist Barry Keiner. Keiner also introduces Just Friends and continues to solo later in the track, with a clean touch and rhythmically relaxed delivery. Buddy swaps fours with the pianist, as impressive using brushes as he is with sticks.

God Bless the Child is an arrangement full of drama: a feature for baritone saxist Turk Mauro supplying an eloquent interpretation and extemporisation. John Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice is given an old-style big-band arrangement, with forceful solos from tenor saxists Bob Mintzer and Steve Marcus.

I Hear a Rhapsody repeats the format of Just Friends, with solos from Barry Keiner, bassist Tom Warrington, and Buddy Rich – again using brushes. These features with brushes are the only drum solos that Rich performs throughout the album. It is a pity that it doesn’t include any of his grandstanding solos – with sticks. But generally this is a satisfying, well-recorded slice of the Buddy Rich band at its dynamic peak.

Why did most drummers idolise Buddy Rich? Because he was one of the best drummers ever. Gene Krupa may have learned more ingeniously how to appeal to the gallery; Tony Williams may have had a more fluid technique from a younger age; Billy Cobham may have played more brilliant runs (in his jazz-fusion days); and others may have had their particular skills. But Buddy Rich – as he shows on this album – was very special.

Tony Augarde

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