Buddy Rich

Live in Miami with Flip Phillips

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Slightly rough sonics aside, this Giant Steps CD reissue of the two albums Buddy Rich and Flip Phillips cut together in small-group settings in the 1950s is a monster. The first date on the disc is actually the latter one chronologically. Buddy Rich in Miami was cut live at the Dream Bar, located in the Johnina Hotel in Miami Beach. It was an after-hours joint and the patrons were ready for badass jazz played by two of its most extroverted personalities -- who'd gotten to work together with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic Orchestra (Phillips spent a decade there). The rhythm section included pianist Ronnie Ball and bassist Peter Ind, both of whom had studied with Lennie Tristano. They hold down the fort beautifully as the solos, breaks, and drumbeats fly throughout the five tracks that make up the set. The highlights are "Topsy" and, of course, the ten-plus-minute "Jumpin' at the Woodside." Phillips is particularly wonderful here; his solos are utterly engaging in technical dexterity, imaginative phraseology, and hard swing -- think of a grittier Lester Young and you have it. The latter date with Phillips listed as leader was recorded in 1954. That said, it's really Phillips and Rich guesting with Oscar Peterson's classic trio with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis. This session, while not as woolly or wild, is very satisfying if one isn't looking to hear either Peterson or Rich showboat. Both men are unusually restrained here, but there are some fine moments, especially the completely reharmonized and rearranged "All of Me," where everyone gets to shine. The other gem on this set is "The Lady's in Love with You," with brilliant work by Phillips and Peterson unhinged in the backdrop. Rich triple-times the band -- no easy feat with Oscar's piano in the house -- but it just burns and is maxed into the red by one of the most blistering guitar solos Ellis ever cut in his long career. Audiophiles might have their problems with the fidelity here -- it's far from bad, but it's also far from pristine -- but everyone else can dig deep into this nonstop groover without hesitation and be grateful this music was captured at all. This is a welcome addition to the Giant Steps vintage jazz catalog.

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