Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Buddy Rich

Dr. Bob Prescribes The Buddy Rich Big Band

Yesterday’s Music History Monday was generally about nepo (as in “nepotism”) babies: “the children of celebrities who have succeeded in the same or adjacent career as their celebrity parents or other esteemed relatives. The implication is that, because their parents already had connections to an industry, the child was able to use those connections to build a career in that industry.” Specifically, yesterday’s Music History Monday marked the 77th birthday of Gary (Levitch) Lewis, the son of the comedian Jerry Lewis and a nepo baby par excellence.   Gary Lewis’ mother – Patti Palmer – was a professional singer who gave her son a set of drums when he was 15.  At the age of 18, he formed a band with four friends.  Since his mother was underwriting the band’s equipment purchases, Lewis got top billing, and the band was called “Gary and the Playboys.” The band was taken on by the American record producer Snuff Garrett, not because they were particularly good but because Garrett saw the band as an opportunity to capitalize off of Gary’s father, the presumed “King of Comedy” himself, Jerry Lewis.   In yesterday’s post, we observed that Gary Lewis was not much of a […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes: The Buddy Rich Big Band

A confession: when it comes to jazz bands large and small, I generally dislike drum solos. My bad; color me a bore. But here’s the thing: if I buy a Keith Jarrett album, for example, I want to hear Keith Jarrett and not, with all due respect to the brilliant drummer Jack DeJohnette, extended drum solos. Speaking generally, I find most drum solos to be monochromatic, lacking – as they do – a melodic and harmonic profile, and formally incoherent, as the phrase structure of the piece under performance is almost always abandoned during a drum solo. There are exceptions, of course, and for me those exceptions are Tony Williams and Buddy Rich. I’ve written recently about my friend and student Tony Williams, who played the drums as if his trap set was a full orchestra, so colorful and melodic and structurally coherent were his solos. And then there’s Buddy Rich: a skinny Jewish kid from Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, New York who had a black belt in Judo (as a United States Marine he taught Judo until he was Dishonorably Discharged from the corps); someone whose virtuosic drumming had the drive and power of a Formula One race car, […]

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