Artist: Buddy Rich
Album: Take It Away
Label: Capitol Records
Quality: FLAC (tracks+.cue)
- Away We Go (Allyn Ferguson)
- Machine (Bill Reddie)
- The Rotten Kid (Buddy Greco)
- New Blues (Donall Piestrup)
- Something For Willie (John Boice)
- Standing Up In A Hammock (Bill Potts)
- Chicago (Fred Fisher)
- Luv (Gerry Mulligan)
- I Can't Get Started (Vernon Duke/Ira Gershwin)
- Group Shot (Donall Piestrup)
- Diabolus (Allyn Ferguson)
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The late sixties were not an auspicious time to be leading a big jazz band. Pop had turned to rock, the Beatles and their followers held sway, and the flower children of the world were dreaming of San Francisco. So Buddy Rich started up another big band. Typical. "We don't know if the kids want it yet — they've never been exposed to it!". That was his response. When I talked to Buddy in the mid-eighties, he had an amazingly dynamic band full of kids who were straight out of college and who subjected themselves to his gruelling training because they knew he was the best. And Buddy loved the challenge of training a young band and passing on his skills - he was fiercely proud of his young players. Rightly so — it was a great band. But he spoke about his band of the sixties in different terms. That was a time when he was on the crest of a wave, proving that a big band could connect to a young audience, despite all the odds.
Buddy was the undisputed master of big band drummers. He had been with Joe Marsala and Bunny Berigan in the thirties, Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey in the forties, Harry James, Charlie Ventura and Tommy Dorsey again in the fifties, and then for the first half of the sixties he settled back in with Harry James. In between times he'd toured with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic and led a few small groups. There wasn't much left for him to do except start up a band of his own again! But, being Buddy, it had to be a challenge. What emerged was what you hear on "Take It Away": The Buddy Rich Big Band was not on a nostalgia trip. He'd taken the plunge in 1966, mixing in new, young players and arrangers with a few more experienced men, and secured a season in Las Vegas. From there, television dates followed in the summer of 1967, and he embarked on a concert tour with his old sparring-partner from his Dorsey days, Frank Sinatra. But what was remarkable was that whereas most of the old bands of the swing era had fallen by the wayside, Buddy stormed into the young club scene and scooped up a whole new young generation of fans. And the reasons are clear. On the surface, the band had all the "E"s -energy, excitement, exuberance and enthusiasm - which couldn't fail to attract youthful ears and feet, even those weaned on rock and pop. At the same time, Buddy never underestimated his public, for they recognised sheer talent when they heard it. The arrangements were slick, the section work was precise and hard-hitting, and the soloists wailed their hearts out with a technique and brilliance which was stunning. The material was chosen without reference to the past, and ranged from originals written by the band and its arrangers, to current pop tunes, and even adventurous suites linking the music of "West Side Story" which became almost his trademark at the time. And all of this was driven along by those relentless drums which fired up the music with such precision and relentless swing, presided over by a showman of the first order with a flashy grin, dripping sweat, and calling the shots.
And Buddy calls the shots, literally, from the opening "Away We Go" which is what it says — a flag-waving opener penned and arranged by Allyn Ferguson, with a touch of old-style call and response between the trumpets and the saxes, and a fiery drum break from Buddy. It paves the way for several numbers which show Buddy's style of big band jazz can unite the power and excitement of the sections with space for soloists. Bill Reddie's "Machine' throws soloists into a frenzy of punctuating brass. Buddy Greco's "The Rotten Kid' is arranged by Dick Grove in an unrelenting power-house where Buddy's cymbals speed along the soloists and his sticks punch up the sections. "Standing Up In A Hammock", a Bill Potts number, has some fearsome unison writing for the sax section. Fred Fisher's standard "Chicago" is dressed up by Don Rader to give a rare but short break for Ray Starling"s piano to lead into a trumpet led ensemble. "Group Shot" is Donall Piestrup's insistently rolling tempo to provide a showcase for a succession of solos to play against a brass background. "Diabolus" is a spectacular set piece experiment with time signatures designed by Allyn Ferguson for concert use, and after an opening fanfare, the rhythm section settle down to establish a Latin beat, which is explored by the band before Buddy changes the mood and slows the tempo down to a gentle pace to allow for solo trumpet work, before the band and the saxes take the lead and ride out on a high. And in between these exciting high-flyers, the band is able to demonstrate that all is not histrionics. Donall Piestrup also contributes the delightful "New Blues", with Buddy driving the brass at mid-tempo in a style which would have delighted Bill Basie. Trombonist John Boice contributes "Something For Willie" where he caresses a beautiful melody and the band swells and wallows around him. "Luv" is Gerry Mulligan's theme tune for the film of the same name, and Bill Holman's arrangement waltzes its way round the tune. Then there's Dave Bloomberg's tribute to Buddy's early days with Bunny Berigan in an arrangement for the saxes of a slow and gentle "I Can"t Get Started", with a beautiful but brief solo chorus by guitarist Richard Resnicoff.
When "Take It Away" first appeared it became a big band best seller. (As did Buddy's albums "Swinging New Big Band" and "Keep The Customer Satisfied", available on BGO's companion CD number BGO CD 169.) Since then it's been sought after by collectors. Now it's available without scratches and clicks in glorious digital stereo. It marks a high point in Buddy Rich's band-leading career. Please don't miss it this time round!