Buddy Rich, Class of ‘78 (1978)
I spotted this in an American store recently and flipped it over to check the tracklisting – I was excited because I didn’t know this album. Turns out I did – I knew it as a CD called “The Greatest Drummer Who Ever Lived…With The Best Band I Ever Had” and I had bought it for a tenner when I moved to Wellington some 20 years ago. I was a kid then, obsessed with jazz and Buddy Rich had been a huge deal for me because my mum set me up with a Buddy Rich record when I was about 11 years old. That, some drumsticks and two pillows. I always sounded pretty good playing along to Buddy Rich on the pillows, not so much when I got behind a drumkit. He’s a hero – sure. But there are better/more musical drummers to engage with too. But there’s something about the freight-train propulsion of Buddy – and his anger and his quest for a frantic perfectionism – that is utterly captivating. He is what happens when the child prodigy doesn’t burn out. And it’s fucking ugly. And you see that on his face, a disdain, a darkness, a brood that suggests he knows he’s too good at what he does meaning he’s not so good as a human being. More machine than man was Buddy. But bloody good still and anyone who tells you he’s not worth listening to is not worth listening to. I did my time playing this album – under its “Best Drummer” title. And I loved it so, so much – the version of Birdland at break-neck pace, the spy and subtle playing that is there too – buried somewhere under so much bombast. Goddamn he was an evil, psychotic, nasty piece. But he could play. Those sticks blurred and it sounded good. Was so happy to find this record – it’s been a long time since I heard all of these tunes in this exact order, it’s a great album. One of his finest displays of what made him so good.
Sample Track: Fiesta
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