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Buddy Rich

Born in New York, 1917, drummer Buddy Rich began in vaudeville at the age of 18 months, earning the nickname 'Baby Traps' by the time he was seven.

He worked with the bands of Bunny Berigan, Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey, developing into one of the best big-band drummers of the swing period. In 1946, he formed his own big band with financial help from Frank Sinatra with whom the belligerent drummer had had stormy relations since their Dorsey days.

With the decline of big bands, Rich joined Norman Granz's Jazz At The Phil unit and features on numerous albums from the tours (Jazz At The Philharmonic, Vol 2). The competitive, flamboyant atmosphere suited him well, better than the bebop combo context with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Curley Russell (The Definitive Charlie Parker, Vol 2). A typical Granz session pitted Rich against fellow drummer Gene Krupa, with the bristling Rich grabbing all the honors on Bernie's Tune, The Drum Battle and Perdido (Drum Battle).

One of his best albums from the '50s remains the live sessions with Flip Phillips (The Monster) where his drumming combines with Peter Ind's masterly bass to drive the tenorist into some of his best performances. In 1966, Rich returned to fronting his own bands, with excellent arrangements but usually devoid of colorful soloists, apart from Rich. Two albums from 1968 represent the band's best work (Take It Away and Mercy, Mercy) the second including altoist Art Pepper.

In 1971, Rich signed with RCA and recorded in the jazz-rock vein using an increased rhythm section (A Different Drummer). In 1974 Rich took some time off briefly from his big band forming a small group with Sal Nistico, Sonny Fortune, Joe Romano, Jack Wilkins, Kenny Baron, and John Bunch to play at his New York club, Buddy's Place.

Returning to the big-band life, Rich suffered a serious heart attack in January '83, necessitating an open-heart surgery, but after less than two months' convalescence, the irrepressible Rich was back on the road, raring to take his orchestra on a UK tour. In the '80s his band has toured with the extraordinary tenorist Steve Marcus as a featured front-line soloist and occasionally the band had appeared with the four-piece vocal group Zee which includes Rich's daughter Cathy.

Buddy Rich is a controversial figure. Some rate him as the greatest drummer of all time, and others as insensitive and flashy. Technically, he is phenomenal; fast, accurate and endlessly driving.

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  • Artist / Group Name: Buddy Rich
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