The Lost Tapes
is not just another big band performance on DVD. The project was planned, staged and recorded on an elaborately designed sound-stage. Recorded only two years before the leader's death, the master tapes were almost lost in a fire fifteen years ago. The recovered tape was meticulously restored to today's high standards.
Buddy Rich was among the finest drummers in the jazz idiom. While some fans, like this reviewer, preferred George Wettling's work with the 1937-38 Artie Shaw band, others fell for Rich's stormy performance on "Carioca" in 1939. That record is still considered a classic.
Buddy Rich went on to prove his worth with Bunny Berigan, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, and Les Brown. His legendary performances with "Jazz At The Philharmonic" imprinted his artistry on fans of all stripes. The Lost Tapes
features Rich leading a big band of four trumpets, three trombones, five reeds, piano and bass. It's a powerful and well-rehearsed outfit. The soloists are limited in number but not in talent. Pianist, Bill Cunliffe, ranges from delicate on "New Blues" to fiery on "Tee Bag." The latter piece is performed by the rhythm section alone. Written by Mike Mainieri, "Tee Bag" is pure delight and occurs at midpoint in the concert providing a nice change from the large orchestra. Cunliffe's solo is wonderful.
Another memorable track is "Round Midnight." Steve Marcus delivers the only solo on tenor and it's as imaginative as one would expect. Marcus spent 12 years with Buddy Rich and came from a solid background with Woody Herman, Stan Kenton and Larry Coryell. The colorful saxophonist passed away just weeks ago at his home in New Hope, Pa. He was 66.
The Rich band was noted for its version of "West Side Story" and it's the closer for the filmed concert. With a spectacular arrangement by Bill Reddie, Buddy Rich makes every effort to impress. He reaches deep into his bag of tricks and has a hypnotic effect on the audience. At times, his touch is almost inaudible as he delicately strokes the cymbals and delivers showers of subtle rim taps. Drummers will appreciate the clever photography as Rich's artistry is covered by cameras directly above, directly below and from several other angles. His equipment rests on a thick Plexiglas stage allowing an unusual and fascinating view from under the instrument. Perspiration drips constantly on the drumheads.
The DVD offers some bonus tracks allowing the viewer to play only the solos if desired. There are other tracks by the drummer's family members and some technical information on the staging of the concert. Every Buddy Rich fan should have a copy of The Lost Tapes
. Highly recommended.