To the partners of drummers this album will seem like the cruellest joke, to wide-eyed students this will all seem like a magic trick and to everyone else this could all just be a bit silly. And then there’s the Buddy Rich fans. Whoever you are – wherever you are – this review is for you.
The Solos is indeed an entire album of drum solos, named simply Solo 1 – Solo 9 the nine drum solos here are excerpted from their song-home, sent out into the world as the flurry of single-stroke rolls and the hurricane-force swing that modern drumming’s angry virtuoso had mastered by the time he’d graduated from dancing, drumming boy-wonder in his parents’ circus troupe. Here is Buddy working bloody hard for the money – these solos taken from a set of gigs on a European tour across the mid-70s.
You might think you want this/need to have it and only listen to it once – or you might drive around with this as the perfect soundtrack for when you’re stuck in traffic on a Friday afternoon (I can vouch for this, it really works). Buddy might be called into question these days as something of a trick-man, more pat-your-head/rub-your-tummy circus-freak than musician but that’s never quite right. Even suggesting he’s overrated is somewhat absurd. This guy was the best. Sure, there were more musical players; I’d take Max Roach any day – in the choices he made and as a soloist (he actually composed for the kit/on the kit) but hearing Buddy solo is second only to hearing Buddy drive a band. He demanded the best and he sure gave that of himself.
Frightening is the dexterity, worrying is the thought of people being too hard on themselves in practice rooms, this in their headphones thinking – naively – they have to learn somewhere…
Uneasy listening this certainly is. But it’s jaw-droppingly good. Thinking it’s downright fucking stupid is of course totally valid; it’s my next thought after muttering some sort of wow to myself when I’m stuck in traffic, that military precision being beaten into the snare, that hi-hat dancing in the blur of the world of its own.