Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 50: The Buddy Rich Big Band "Live Wham!" and Stefano di Battista Self Titled

The Albatross hits the Big 5-Oh. That means that a few days ago 100 CDs went onto the hard drive (since some were doubles and some days I did more than two). One hundred CDs that I've also listened to all the way through. Crazy. I don't have anything in depth to say about that, just felt it needed to be noted. I'm already starting to fade as far as what is what. I went through to share some songs with my brother as he starts to consider new paths in his music career and I actually found myself going through the list and knowing it was something that got added but still having to think, "What was the deal with this stuff again?"

I knew that as soon as I got a new Mac there would be some event that would come up that makes mine out of date. This happened last time, too. I need to better time my crisis. This really doesn't pertain to the Albatross, but it was on my mind.

Also, I added a food blog written by an old college friend and theater person in the links all the way at the bottom. I might have to hunt for a new template, that side bar is getting lengthy. Anyway, check it out, it might make you hungry, though.

Onto the beast...

The Buddy Rich Big Band
Live Wham!

This is not your father's big band. Well, I mean, it probably is. It's just as likely as anything else, really. It was recorded in 1977 and 1978 after all. But for a big band, that's 'modern.' And Buddy Rich's big band carries that modern big band sound, sort of recycling back that Chicago/Blood, Sweat, and Tears jazz rock sound back into jazz, this is sharper and more dynamic that 'traditional' big band. More forceful as well, partially a function of being lead by a drummer as opposed to a piano or horn player.

The liner notes include a Modern Drummer Magazine interview with Rich from the time and I have to say he comes off like an old school jazz crumedgon. Here are some highlights:

Modern Drummer: Do you do any limbering up before a performance?

Buddy Rich: Yeah, I usually take my hands out of my pockets.
Modern Drummer: That trick of using both ends of one stick to play two different drums. Is that something you thought up?

Buddy Rich: Almost everything I've don I've done through my own creativity. I don't think I have ever had to listen to anyone else to learn how to play drums. I wish I could say that for about ten thousand drummers.
Modern Drummer: Are any of your drums specially made?

Buddy Rich: Nope, right off the rack.

Modern Drummer: That's interesting. I thought many name players use custom made equipment?

Buddy Rich: Yeah, that's because they can't play. I mean it's obvious you put a race driver in a car, if he knows how to drive, he can drive anything. If he can't drive, the can't push a kiddie car.
Buddy Rich:...It's easier now because the kids that are playing have no musical background [earlier he eschewed musical education and listening to other players and practicing, mind]. They luck out with an album and they become stars. I mean, where is their staying power? Where is their creativity? Most drummers I hear today play what every other drummer has played on a record. I don't hear one bit of originality. I hear triplets coming of tom-toms by every kid that's been able to hold a pair of sticks. That's not my idea of playing drums.
I managed to find a transcription of the entire interview, it gets worse. You really should check it out.

Joel Dorn describes him this way-

Buddy Rich was like weather in the tropics, always changing. One minute you'd be sharin' a joint wiht him and laughin' your ass off, the next he'd be screamin' at you and shooting karate kicks by your head.
 I'm not sure what it is about jazz that attracts this personality type, but it's not all that uncommon even among jazz musicians that you've never heard of unless you're into your local jazz scene. I've had instructors like this (alright, I've never had an instructor swing a kick at me, but I wouldn't have put it past a few...)

One of the odd take aways that they seemed to want to get to in these liner notes is that late in his career he became interested in cars and karate, each get a few separate mentions.

I've been trying to read all of this stuff while listening to the full on assault on my ears that this recording is. This refuses to be background music. Sometimes, when an album isn't that exciting I can push my headphones forward and still listen to the album while catching whats going on with the TV.  I'd have to put the headphones in the other room to even hope to accomplish that here. I can't help but imagine smoke rising off this big band after their done. It is loud, it is fast, it is dynamic--as long as that dynamic is loud and fucking loud.

Jim, Kermit, and Buddy
And as if to underline that, here comes their four times speed version of Miles Davis' So What? Under Davis it was a medium laid back tempo moody modal study. Under Buddy Rich it's a bright, fast, multi-layered five minute long shout chorus.

The monster at the end of the book is a 26 minute long suite. I have no idea how they can sustain themselves through a marathon like that, it should be interesting.

Speaking of Muppets, for no explained reason there is a picture of Jim Henson with Kermit on the back cover. Awesome.

Stefano di Battista
Stefano Di Battista
So clearly I am part of the problem. Because there is plenty of new jazz just sitting unlistened to in the Albatross, including new saxophonists. But if I had been asked before this project started I would have been able to name Chris Potter and Black/Note and then stalled. But two days in a row I've put a new saxophonist on the hard drive, so I wasn't even so much as paying attention to the stack of CDs that I was taking home.

This album includes some more Jacky Terrasson as well. Blue Note really like Terrasson it seems.

There aren't any fun liner notes to play with here, it's just a bunch of photos laid out from the recording session of all of the young lions of Blue Note getting together and recording and album.  After that run of liner notes I'm almost disappointed. I kind of feel like I'm going, "Yeah yeah, good music...whatever...get back to me when you have an extreme political screed or want to rage against a generation of performers on your instrument..."

And that's not far from the truth. This is almost exactly the kind of jazz I like, on the instrument I prefer. It's clean, it's well done, well performed, but I'm just kind of sitting here. This is kind of what I've talked about before. With so much nutty or bizarre things that might surface somewhere in the collection my time for stuff that is just simply good becomes limited.

I guess I could expand this into a metaphor for our information age. When there's so much of it out there you simply don't have the time for quality. This blog (while I'm not trying to bill it as quality) is simply too long for anyone to really read...why spend fifteen minutes plowing through some guy's musing on a CD when a video of a cat riding a turtle is a stumble away? And I don't say that 'holier than thou,' I do it all the time. I watched that kitten ride the turtle and forwarded it even. I get TED talks that come up on stumble where I don't have to read shit, just watch a video...but its six minutes? Cracked might have a list of the Six Silliest Super-Hero Reboots if I just hit that stumble button...

When the filter becomes our attention spans we are not filtering for quality or even for content, we're filtering for noise. When there is so much that demands our attention can we even be criticized for paying attention to the loudest, the splashiest? I can listen to this absolutely good quintet recording, but over in the stack is a bagpipe CD that tries to make the bagpipe a modern instrument. (that may or may not be true, I know there is a bagpipe CD in the wings and I feel like I'm trying to burn through the CDs to get to it because I have no idea what it's about).

I don't even have rounds anymore, I just have stumble. If I hit stumble enough I'll get my rounds, IO9 will come up, Gawker, etc. I tend to forget that the Onion is even open as part of my set of home pages. There's so much information out there and so many ways for it to be hand delivered that I do the equivalent of just go out and lay on the lawn and let it fall on me. There's good stuff within reach, there is quality in the bag. There is a perfectly awesome jazz quintet recording under foot. But I can't see it because I'm too busy being led by whatever distracting noise is in my way.

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