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Bebop Spoken There

Val Wilmer: "The festival [New York Musicians Festival], an impressive exercise in African-American self-reliance, had come about after the promoter George Wein had moved his annual Newport Jazz Festival to New York the previous year [1972], and paid scant attention to the avant garde." - (Wire June 2020)

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Book review: Pelle Bergland - Buddy Rich One of a Kind.

Pelle Bergland, a Swedish writer and occasional percussionist, spent 8 years researching and interviewing significant musicians and contacts of Buddy Rich. The highs and the lows of the egocentric drummer are recorded and, where possible, explained.

For some it may be a nostalgic trip, for others it may be a voyage of discovery, but for those, such as myself, who saw him live so many times it is a reminder that he really was as great as they remembered him. Even now, 50 years on, I still recall the thrill I got hearing him that first time at Ronnie's. A thrill that had already been rekindled when I heard the recently released, newly discovered, final album.

Bergland has been meticulous in his research, slotting everything in  chronologically to the extent that we're almost on the bus with Buddy or in the passenger seat as he drives his Jaguar from New York to Vegas or wherever.

The bands lead by Marsala, Berigan, Shaw, Dorsey and James. The love/hate relationship with Sinatra, the JATP tours and his survival leadinng a new big band in an ever increasing rock environment are documented with all sources acknowledged.

Rich didn't go out to win friends but he certainly influenced people. His fallouts with Leonard Feather, Dusty Springfield, Norman Granz and various band members - the infamous bus tape is referred to - as well as, by contrast, his kindness towards other drummers whom he respected.

There are lots of great quotes such as the drum salesman who approached Buddy and said, "This foot pedal will give you the fastest feet in the world" to which Buddy replied, "Faster than who?"

Comparisions will no doubt be drawn between this work and the previous 'definitive' one by Mel Tormé (*Mel Tormé: Traps The Drum Wonder. Mainstream Publishing).Well, I've now read both, and I love them both. Indeed there are many references to Tormé's 1991 book in this one and, possibly because of Tormé's long friendship with Buddy, this latest one is perhaps more objective. As it is, I wouldn't be without either.

It is one of those books I didn't want to end,  I knew he died on April 2, 1987 and I felt that, if I didn't read that last page he would still be alive - age 102 - cussing out the band and playing West Side Story like even he'd never played it before!

Time to dig out the vinyl...
Lance.

Pelle Bergland: Buddy Rich One of a Kind. Hudson Music. ISBN 978-1-5400-6423-3.

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