As stated in the press kit, the producers of this project recovered the masters from a fire back in 1990, and proceeded to embark upon a restoration project. The historical significance behind this newly released film is that it marks drummer Buddy Rich’s last concert prior to his passing in 1987. With his big band, Rich shows no signs of diminished skills, but seemed winded after executing his supersonic-speed like drum solos.
The band opens with the "West Side Story -- Set," where the drummer steers the flow, culminating in the band’s archetypal blend of hip-ness, vivacious swing and brazen, horn arrangements. The recent passing of tenor saxophonist and the band's musical director, Steve Marcus looms as a sad event for the world of modern jazz. But his legacy and importance to jazz lives on, witnessed by the fierce soloing executed throughout these largely, exuberant charts.
The orchestra tones it down a few degrees, during its warm and moody rendition of "Round Midnight," as Rich displays his mastery of the brushes, amid subtle cymbal shadings. Then again, Marcus ups the ante with circular phrasings and a gritty reconfiguration of the primary theme. Through it all, the cameramen pan around the stage to emit a sense a movement. And of course they zoom in on Rich quite often and especially when he’s soloing. But the highlight for me, pertains to Rich’s unfathomable break-out towards the finale of "West Side Story: Overture and Medley," where he uses cross-sticking techniques and implements massive press rolls. He also solos using single-hand stick control that in effect, boggles the mind and senses. Regardless, this newly issued DVD serves as a musical bright-spot for 2005. (Essential.... )