Wednesday, March 16, 2005

(Not So) Big and Rich

I received a link today that really brought back some childhood memories -- and maybe even a twinge of remorse for the way that great television and music are being swept away. Hard to believe that one little link could do that to me, isn't it? Well, that one link is Animal vs. Buddy Rich. That's right! This is a true jazz legend in a drum-off with a freaking Muppet! I cannot believe that has archived Buddy Rich's appearance on The Muppet Show. I loved this show in my youth. And can even appreciate it more now. There is very little on TV today that can compete with The Muppet Show in terms of creativity and comedy. Sure, there are better special FX, and we have CGI instead of mammoth puppets. But there just isn't the same dynamic ... the same life OK. That's my lament on missing a show from my youth; what about that music crack I made? Well, I can actually claim a personal connection to Buddy Rich. My uncle, who is also my godfather, is a professional drummer. But long before he made his mark on the California music scene, he was a Rich acolyte. They had a long correspondence and even became friendly. I guess Rich liked my uncle's playing -- and his attitude. Rich was kindy picky in both regards. Well, in the mid-80s, my uncle was able to get Buddy Rich and his entire band to play a concert in our little off-the-beaten-track hometown. Even though I was in high school, I knew this was a big deal. Come on, my hometown is nestled in the Allegheny Highlands and it just isn't on the way to ... anything. I even got to meet Buddy Rich after the show; my uncle was very keen on introducing me to his idol. I was conscious of the fact that I was meeting someone who had helped to shape my uncle. A man whose influence had been second only to two other men in my uncle's life: his father and his oldest brother (my father). Buddy Rich died just a few years after that show ... almost a year after my high school graduation. In this day and age of American Idol, pre-programmed radio, and copy-cat acts, there is rarely a sense of true craftsmanship when it comes to musical performers. But there, in that video clip -- as goofy as it might look -- is a true master. He knows it, but he's not above having a little fun. I'm sure there is a story or two of Buddy being difficult, but it's a far cry from the diva and primaddona antics of today's stars, most of whom will be lucky to leave a "legacy" of a mere one or two recordings. And that doesn't even begin to measure up to the decades-long legacy of someone like Buddy Rich. OK, sorry for the uncharacteristic rant (uncharacteristic in topic, not in meandering), but isn't this the sort of thing for which blogs are tailor-made?


Ogie said...

Wonderful Rant!

Buddy was indead a true talent, and I applaud your tribute. The Muppet show was one of those flukes in broadcasting, it was syndicated. The major networks couldn't control them, their content or their humor. Jim Hensen was adamant about his creative output. From the earliest days of RALPH on the Jimmy Dean show, through the first Saturday Night Live shows, Hensen and company showed again and again that talent is like cream.

Buddy Rich blew me away with a direct to disc recording in 1978 entitled "The Class of '78" in which his band performed an awe inspiring version of "Birdland" the great tune from Joe Zawinul and Weather Report. By recording directly to a vinyl master they were able to achieve then an almost "digital" recording with virtually no tape hiss or electronic interference. It was if the horn section was right there IN YOUR FACE!

Thanks for taking time to stir up GREAT memories of artists who truly loved their craft, and that love was CONTAGIOUS!


brainwise said...

Thanks for sharing the love, man. I've heard "The Class of '78" but I don't own it.

Now, of course, I want to.

Ogie said...

I see you're also a man of your word, spreading the love, from the message you left at my blog. Thank you, from me, and my cousin. I'm sorry for your loss.

Keep the good vibes going and thank you again!