Drummer Joe Ascione's love for drummer Buddy Rich is no secret as he goes to town with the 12 tracks on this CD. He fronts an octet through these standards like a hot knife through butter, and the group could not be more en fuego. Veterans Randy Sandke, trumpet, Dan Barrett, trombone, the legendary tenor saxophonist Billy Mitchell, Bob Haggart, bass (since passed on) join multi-instrumentalist Brian Ogilvie, pianist Mark Shane, and guitarist James Chirillo for a hard driving, soulfully swinging tribute to Rich. Throughout the date, Ascione, 35 at the time of this recording, acquits himself well. He's not as brash as Rich (who could be?) but pushes the band without being pushy. Everyone in the combo contributes arrangements, most noticeable is Barrett's bouncy, sprightly "Limehouse Blues," ultra cool "Soft Winds," and Ogilvie's uppity chart on "I Want to Be Happy" where he takes an extroverted alto sax lead. Sandke's duet with Ascione on "Nica's Dream" is quite stripped down and daring, and the 14:19 "Blues #5 (Blues for Kurtchen)" is a downtrodden finale where everyone in the band gets blue for Rich. Mitchell's feature on "J & B's Bag" is the CD's highlight, and it's great to hear this icon still very much in the game, his original, bluesy legato sound intact and vibrant. Rich was short and snappy, and so are these tunes for the most part. At times you think their lamps are trimmed and burning, as if there's a prescribed cut-off point. There's a variance in tempo from up to down and back up, an interesting contrast in a tribute to a person who was generally pretty fiery. Kudos to Ascione and crew for a fine offering of pure, authentic, professional, mainstream jazz. Highly recommended for lovers of traditional, classic sounds.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos