Here’s a ‘drum-off’ between the legendary Buddy Rich and Ed Shaughnessy, the drummer for the Tonight Show band for two decades. The big band arrangement that kicks things off belongs to a genre of music I always think of as ‘heart-attack jazz’, a very specific over-wrought big band mayhem sound that was popular in the 1970s and early 80s. Though Rich is the flashier of the two, Shaughnessy more than holds his own and gets extra points from me for not making as many unattractive faces while playing as Rich does. Rich, by the way, despite his virtuosity never learned to read music. As a result a ‘stand-in’ drummer who could read would play the new charts for Rich, who had to learn them by watching what the stand-in did. Pretty silly if you ask me, but the list of jazz musicians who play brilliantly but don’t ever bother to learn to read music is a long and distinguished one. An unpleasant Rich anecdote (all Rich anecdotes are unpleasant) has it that Rich and his wife would often get into drunken arguments. One night, a neighbor heard commotion outside the Rich house and saw a set of drums being thrown, piece by piece, out the front door and into the street. Rich, clad only in underwear, ran outside, trying to retrieve his drums while in the background the neighbor heard Rich’s wife scream: ‘And you can’t even read music, you big phony!’


Sign up for news & updates so you don't miss a thing!

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *