Buddy Rich had one of the most exciting bands ever for many reasons: Buddy's charisma and technique, skilled musicians and, for more than fifteen years, John La Barbera's arrangements. Arranger La Barbera brings a lot of electricity to "On the Wild Side." He's in good company with brother Pat on tenor and soprano, drumming brother Joe and a host of talented west coasters.
Guest altoist Bud Shank opens the session, burning through Horace Silver's "Mayreh" and trading solos with the equally fiery Clay Jenkins on trumpet. "So What" by Miles is rhythmically intricate, following a choirlike intro. Jenkins is eloquent and Pat La Barbera doesn't let any grass grow. This duo, plus brother Joe, are featured on "Eleanor Rigby." That arrangement opens with a rephrasing of the melody, and then takes you and Ms.Rigby on an extended magical tour that just has to cure her loneliness! The other extended offering is "Walk on the Wild Side Suite" by Elmer Bernstein, originally written for Buddy. It's an imaginative chart and conveys a wide range of emotions. "Message from Art" is a hard-driving Joe La Barbera composition showcasing his Blakey-inspired drumming. Jenkins and pianist Bill Cunliffe shine on the swinging "Cloth of Silver - Threads of Blue." John also contributes two joyous Latin originals, "Tiger of San Pedro" and "Cachaca Gotcha" and a wild soprano outing for Pat on "Highland Crossing."
This big band generates strong ensemble playing and inspired solo performances. John Le Barbera melds the two in his arrangements. There is always interplay between the soloist and the band.
In a sense, this orchestra is an augmented version of the original La Barbera Family Band. Now it's John, Pat, Joe and friends. Pianist Joseph La Barbera Sr.,has passed on. Mother Rose, at 93, no longer plays bass but still cheers them on and listens to Coltrane. Wonderful!