1. Speak No Evil
2. Yearnin' Learnin'
3. Medley: Storm at Sunup/Love Me Now
4. Fight the Power
5. Games People Play
6. Sophisticated Lady (She's a Different Lady)
7. Sneakin' Up Behind You
8. How Long (Betcha Got A Chick)
1. Ya Gotta Try
2. Tales of Rhoda Rat
3. 'Round about Midnight
4. Time Out
5. No Jive
6. Lush Life
7. Party Time
9. Mickey Mouse
Buddy Rich - Drums plus:
Jon Faddis, Lew Soloff, Danny Moore, Victor Paz - Trumpets
Wayne Andre, Tom Malone, Janice Robinson, Dave Taylor - Trombones
Dave Tofani, Jerry Dodgion - Alto saxes
Steve Marcus, Joe Farrell - Tenor saxes
Turk Mauro - Baritone sax
Howard Johnson - Tuba
Kenny Barron - Electric piano
Ross Traut - Guitar
Bob Cranshaw - Bass
Morris Jennings - Drums, percussion
Rhetta Hughes, Vivian Cherry, Lani Groves - Vocals
Ross Konikoff, John Marshall, Dean Pratt, David Sahl - Trumpets
Rick Stepton, Clinton Sharman - Trombones
David Boyle - Bass trombone
Bob Mintzer, Alan Gauvin, Dean Palanzo, Steve Marcus, Mauro Turso - Saxes
Barry Kiener - Keyboards
Jonathan Burr - Bass
Joshua Rich - Guitar
Erroll Bennett - Percussion
K. R. Grant - Mouse
Steve Khan - Guitar (track 8)
Will Lee - Bass (track 8)
"Crusher" Bennett - Congas (track 8)
Lonnie Groves, Josh Brown, Gwen Guthrie - Vocals (track 8)
BGO Records have already reissued several albums by the Buddy Rich Big Band and I have reviewed one of their double CDs from 1971 (http://www.musicweb-international.com/jazz/2008/Rich_BGOCD785.htm). Now here's another double album comprising LPs recorded in 1976 and 1977.
Sad to say, these recordings are not up to the standard of some of his earlier big-band albums. Speak No Evil was arranged and produced by Richard Evans, who was clearly aiming at funk-rock fans rather than jazz enthusiasts. The main attraction of the Rich bands has always been Buddy's drumming but the drums are very low in the mix, masking Rich's usual crispness and given comparatively little solo space. One might say that these recordings could have been made by a lesser drummer than Rich, since he is only called upon to maintain a funky beat most of the time. One wonders how much of the percussion is provided by Buddy and how much by Morris Jennings. It is characteristic of the down-market approach that several of the tracks fade out, whereas many previous recordings by Buddy's band ended in a blaze of glory. For this album, Buddy called his ensemble "Buddy Rich and the Big Band Machine" and much of the music is mechanistic in the worst sense.
On the plus side, this album has some worthy solos by such musicians as altoist Dave Tofani, tenorist Steve Marcus and trumpeter Jon Faddis (who goes stratospheric in Yearnin' Learnin' and Love Me Now). Yet the medley of Storm at Sunup and Love Me Now (both Gino Vanelli songs) outstays its welcome at more than ten minutes and it cannot compare with the Rich band's classic West Side Story Medley. Other tracks are marred by the cooing vocal chorus - particularly the final How Long which even uses rap from the vocalists, abetted with "Signifyin' by Buddy & Mo" (whoever they are).
Happily, the second LP, Plays and Plays and Plays, is much better because it is more in line with the jazz style of Buddy's big bands. The arrangements are by such jazzers as Bob Mintzer, Don Menza, Phil Wilson and Sam Nestico. Nestico's Ya Gotta Try has understandably become a staple in the repertoire of many big bands for its built-in swing and it returns us to the Rich Big Band that jazz fans know and love, with Buddy's drums more prominent and not clouded as in the previous album. Overall the sound quality is sharper, with Barry Kiener's piano coming through clearly. Tenorist Bob Mintzer solos fluently on this opening track and on several other tracks.
Mintzer's orchestration of his own Tales of Rhoda Rat has the richness of arrangements by Neal Hefti or Thad Jones. Steve Marcus's tenor sax is passionate here and heartfelt in Thelonious Monk's 'Round about Midnight. Time Out is an up-tempo stormer with a nice muted trumpet solo by Ross Konikoff.
No Jive proves that Buddy can play jazz=rock rhythms as if it's second nature - and also supply rousing drum solos. Lush life is a multi-coloured arrangement by Phil Wilson, while Party Time is an engaging shuffle. Kong threatens to take us back to the funky rock of the preceding LP, with unnecessary backing choir, although Steve Marcus's soprano sax manages to soar above the thick orchestration. The album ends with Mickey Mouse, a delicate solo for the radiant piano of Barry Kiener. My copy of the album ends with the unexpected sound of a slamming door!
For Buddy Rich fans, the only problem with Plays and Plays and Plays is the paucity of drum solos from Rich himself. But at least he is upfront - leading the band instead of buried away as he was in Speak No Evil.