AUGUST 2021 – By John Apice
GROOVES & CUTS – Legendary Drummer Buddy Rich Insults Country Music
In 1971, jazz drummer Buddy Rich (who I admire) erroneously on The Mike Douglas Show stated that he couldn’t stand country music. He said with a determination that this country needed to grow up. Mature in their musical tastes. Country music was a giant step backward. He said, anybody can sing it, play it, & anybody can do it. He appealed to people to stop listening to simple things like country music by hillbillies. Strong statement.
Then went on to name great jazz players. He said, Glen Campbell was a cowboy Wayne Newton. But I guess Mr. Rich was unaware that as far as virtuosity & skill Glen Campbell on guitar was as great as Buddy was on drums (so was Roy Clark).
Rich obviously didn’t know this comparing Glen & Roy to guitar great Charlie Christian was an error. Charlie was a wonderful early jazz guitarist. But Charlie was not a Glen Campbell (it’s doubtful Christian could do “The William Tell Overture” over his head).
Rich must have thought country music was stuck in a Tex Ritter/Gene Autry gear & not familiar with the finesse, excellence, skill & genius of a Chet Atkins (who in the 1967 Playboy Jazz Poll – Atkins topped the rankings out-distancing many other jazz guitarists).
So, I wouldn’t go too far with the hillbilly stretch, Buddy. The masterful playing of Roy Clark, Charlie Daniels (fiery fiddle), Jim Reeves (excellent vocals), Floyd Cramer (piano), Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, James Burton, & I guess he forgot all about that guy from Tupelo — Elvis Presley. Buddy needed to be on that Mike Douglas stage with someone who knew these facts & could verbally duel with him accurately & aggressively. Not violently, though I give credit to a guest on the show, Alabama-born actor George Lindsay for not clocking him.
At times, I understood what Buddy was trying to say. But his obnoxiousness & arrogance got in the way of his senses. He never realized country music had advanced & may have left him behind. Hell, jazz legend Louis Armstrong played with Johnny Cash (1970). They performed Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel #9” together. I guess Rich must’ve missed it.
Rich also was not aware country in its roots form were antique folk songs imported from Scotland, Ireland, England, Germany from hundreds of years ago. Further cultivated in Appalachia. This carries down through generations gave birth to traditional music nourished by artists like The Carter Family, Jimmie Rogers. The immeasurable collecting of songs by Alan Lomax & Harry Smith (who also taped & documented early blues, country, minstrel & jazz). Country music in its earliest form Mr. Rich – is older than jazz. Because if you’re going to say jazz came from Africa (which in part it did) it was then what? A piece of folk music.
They didn’t have saxophones, trombones & trumpets 200 years ago. No, Mr. Rich, for want of a better word you exhibited temporary insanity. Musical ignorance on network television. Country music, unlike jazz, is the music of the earth. It tells stories, documents like a diary & is passed down generation to generation. Ancient folk music led to country music & what sprung from country music Mr. Rich? The blues, then rock & roll & everything that followed.
Jazz sprung from the blues. So, in a funny way, jazz is a distant cousin to…country music. Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny (from Missouri) & jazz double-bass player the late Charlie Haden (Iowa) both admitted in an interview in a 1997 Pulse Magazine the connections of country music to jazz. Haden eloquently said, “if you listen to ‘Ramblin’ by Ornette Coleman,” (referencing Ornette’s LP “Change of the Century”), “you’ll hear ‘Old Joe Clark,” ‘Fort Worth Jail,’ and lots of hillbilly songs.”
They discussed the fact that among lots of jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton’s bands drew freely from country music. So maybe Buddy Rich didn’t think this through with clarity.
If you want to hear jazz cross-bred with country today listen to the ingenious Irish folk-rock-Celtic band Moving Hearts’ “No Time for Love.” These musicians are not hillbillies. It has a country tint at the beginning but by the finale (listen to the end) it is a rousing hot weld of jazz with country flavors. Sends chills down my spine. Their expertise is superb. Listen to that sax Buddy. Not jazz? I beg to differ. What he didn’t understand was the charm of a hillbilly band. Not great musicians? Anybody could play it? I don’t think so.
Goose Creek Symphony? (Medley of Lil’ Liza Jane on YouTube). These musicians could be considered country-jazz musicians with the tight arrangements & the way they solo. Many could not play this music unless they were accomplished musicians.
Buddy ridiculed Boots Randolph’s sax (“Yakety Sax”) on the talk show versus a jazz sax player. (Rich didn’t know Boots also played the trombone & his tune was just a novelty hit to make money). What Rich forgets is that a jazz player probably couldn’t put in the fills that Boots was famous for in more simplistic pop music. “Yakety Sax,” aside, Buddy obviously never heard Randolph’s tenor sax blues solo burner on Elvis Presley’s dirty, sultry version of “Reconsider Baby.”
Probably the only musician to ever get an extended solo spotlight on an Elvis song. In jazz circles, musicians often cited Boots’ unique sound & Boots did indeed play jazz several times. A fact that may embarrass Buddy Rich.
Boots played in conjunction with Pete Fountain & Doc Severinsen. You don’t play with those people unless you’re a pro. Boots also played at many jazz festivals that included the likes of Gary Burton, the Boston Pops Orchestra, Al Hirt & Dixieland jazz bands. Buddy Rich got it wrong.
Maybe Rich would never reconsider. What Rich was probably criticizing was Boots’ choice of career since Rich considered Boots a hillbilly sax player. Boots was far from that; he could’ve easily have played in a Buddy Rich Band. He could read music. But Rich judged him solely on a hit novelty song. How juvenile of a master musician like Buddy. Rule 1: Never misjudge or underestimate.
By the way, Rich recorded a song called “Deep In the Heart of Texas,” – a country & western song written in 1942 by June Hershey & Don Swander. Recorded also by Bing Crosby, Woody Herman & later Ray Charles. What’s up with that Buddy?
In regard to legendary sax player Charlie Parker, witnesses have recounted the story when Parker, took a break at a saloon from a gig. Walked to a jukebox, slipped in coins & played several country songs. One musician came to him. Asked why he was playing that honky music. Parker looked at him & simply said “listen to the stories man…listen to those stories.” I guess Buddy never heard this story — never denied by Parker.
Buddy Rich is a great drummer. Supernaturally good. But I abhor his sarcastic, obnoxious often misguided ignorant remarks. His personality was entertaining. It’s remarks like this about Country that diminished him in the eyes of many. With all my respect for him as a musician, I wouldn’t have backed down on this subject. Country music is part of the American fabric. Tradition.
They sing & record country music in Sweden & New Zealand (Donna Dean’s excellent “What Am I Gonna Do?”) is a fine example. I wish I could’ve talked to Buddy for just 10-minutes about this flaw in his musical opinion. He missed the beat on this subject completely.
SPILLED MERCURY: This month many submissions lacked originality, creativity. Sorely missing. Many artists sing & play well but have little or nothing to say. The music is diluted. It proves how important a producer is & a talented editor. There’s little from a perspective of being different. Why are most songs sung whiney, dreary, valium-induced? Many make the late Nick Drake look downright joyous. There’s no aggression (Jim Morrison), assertiveness (Bruce Springsteen), polished highbrow originality (Leonard Cohen). Little sense of melody. No direction.
But some did surface with some clarity: Of interest to more older listeners will be London-born Spencer Cullum’s 9-cut Coin Collection (Full Time Hobby-Street date: Sept. 24).
The first single “Seaside,” is mindful of past English artists like Clifford T Ward, David McWilliams & Bruce McPherson. Laid-back acoustic guitars, flutes, surreal lyrics, or prog-rock poetic lyrics similar to King Crimson in tunes like “I Talk To The Wind” & “Moonchild.” Younger listeners may find this too trippy, sublime. Nonetheless, it was produced with care by Jeremy Ferguson.
Canadian singer-songwriter Mimi Oz has nice sonics on her self-produced 7-cut, 3rd solo Growing Pains (Street date: Oct. 22). She has the ability to maintain a diversified showcase. “In the Water” is compelling. I like how she pronounces words which leads to her originality as a vocalist. Some first lyrics read as: “I was a sailor, stuck out at sea, drowning on 25 cold hard years of misery,” – that’s pretty good.
Listeners who like vocalizing in a June Tabor, Maire Brennan, Mary Fahl (early October Project) manner will enjoy Sarah McQuaid. Especially when she sings acapella. Songs are accompanied by pristine acoustic guitar & her vocals are embellished in that rich June Tabor range. Maybe not as deep as June but with that Tabor irresistible charm of a nourished contemplative voice that’s instantly intimate & lovely. Her sixth LP The St. Buryan Sessions (Due Oct. 15) is an emotive outing. Samples of music are available at Bandcamp & at her website. https://sarahmcquaid.com/
A young female trio Trousdale is impressive. Their independent folk release The Boot showcases them with a sound similar to vintage sister acts: The Roches & McGarrigle Sisters — but without their edge. They do have glorious-sounding harmonic voices. On “Always, Joni,” their vocal beauty is evident. It may sound Americana-Pop, but this isn’t anything new. The Roches blended their voices like a creative tonal cocktail & flavors as did the Canadian McGarrigle’s. Trousdale is not quite there yet lyrically as Joni Mitchell herself, the Roches or Anna & the late Kate, but I’m confident it will come.
Their voices are there. Comparisons to more mainstream artists by other reviewers don’t point accurately to the real roots of harmonizing made famous by The Roches & their complicated tunes. One of their most notable was “Hammond Song.” The McGarrigle’s – they’re just classic period. “Matapedia,” & the powerful, stunning “Proserpina,” are envied by songwriters. Kate, during her last live concert, sang this song but never recorded it in a studio. The beautifully written “Proserpina,” was covered by daughter Martha Wainwright with stunning sincerity.
This is dramatic songwriting with sharp craftsmanship. I’m looking forward to Trousdale picking up the torch & running with it. There are signs of that possibility. It’s a wonderful tradition for them to inherit – if they’re capable.
Lover of the blues? Then set your radar on the heavy cream of third-generation Tulsa guitarist Seth Lee Jones (L.A. based) who has an impeccable J.J. Cale tone a few decibels more aggressive. It puts Jones in that caliber of Jon Dee Graham, John Martyn, John Campbell, & Otis Taylor (“Resurrection Blues”). His vocal is attuned to dramatic intonation, phrasing & vocalizing. Jones has undiluted blues validity & structured with punch & cohesion.
Jones doesn’t sound like the average joe blues interpreter. He emphasizes traits that bring out his originality. Flathead (Horton-Sept 10) is just that. A type of engine that has power & makes a special sound when it revs. Recorded in Oklahoma, “Half a Mind,” & especially “Driving Wheel,” shows Jones familiar with the blues as well as knows how to add soul & leaven it like whipped egg whites.
Dori Freeman out of Virginia is always a reliable artist in the Aimee Mann tradition. “The Storm,” is such a beautifully rendered melodic song with Freeman’s lilting vocal. Never disappointing. It comes from her fourth LP. The 10-cut Ten Thousand Roses, (Drops Sept 10-Blue Hens Music).
Some call her “grunge country” but this is far from that label on this no-frills attractive tune. Great things happening for this distinctive vocalist/stylist. Produced by her husband Nicholas Falk.
While not a big fan of music with electronica, techno enhancements I couldn’t help to admit the creativity & individuality of the vocals displayed smartly by Elke on her debut LP No Pain for Us Here (Drops Sept 24-Congrats Records). The first single “I Can Help,” has some electronica but it’s not overbearing. The melody’s catchy, the showcase is tightly contained. An infectious little tune decorated by the enchanting strong vocalese of this young artist. I like it. Listened more than once.
I usually dismiss 18-year-old singer-songwriters. I’m crazy. But I liked the bio about a Hawaiian-French-Canadian youngster & when I heard his voice – this ain’t no kid musically. Even if he doesn’t make a big splash now I can just imagine how great this voice will be in a few years. Carson Koa is compelling. Great lyrics on “Breakfast Special,” (released Aug 27-SpeakMusic). His relaxed, yet serious performance is no marginal talent. It’s a little country-tinged, fine singer-songwriter in a good-natured way. “She makes my breakfast special,” indeed. I was born at night but not last night. A clever turn of phrase with no real innuendo intended — but perhaps implied.
Produced by Frank Lauraitis & Ian Campbell the sound is good & right now it’s just a single. There are 18-year-olds out there with lots of talent. Homespun shades of James Taylor. Carson is one. A voice to keep an ear on.
If the late Captain Beefheart wanted to follow in Ralph Stanley’s shoes & pick up a banjo then JD Pinkus (former Butthole Surfers) is that voice. “Woke Up Dead” is somewhat a spare tune from his Fungus Shui LP (released Aug 21-Shimmy Disc-Joyful Noise), but it’s not as grating as one might think. It’s got a good groove & Pinkus has that raw authentic rootsy sound. No dramatics, no fancy riffs, just a guy who just might be recording off his back porch, a jar of shine at his bare feet, cheroots & lots of gritty Americana soul. If nothing else, it’s an interesting listen. And if you want something different look no further than JD.
Two Cent Revival is Brazil-born, NY-based vocalist Matt Jones. Matt has a melodic approach with a Tom Waits-type musical noir that surrounds him. With soaring sax & clever little effects to decorate his showcase on “Violin”, — a nice introduction to his Demons LP (Sept 3-Baby Robot).
The musicality of Jones originates from haunted, old-world source material. Indeed. But as a performer, Jones pulls it off prolifically. With the absence of a new Waits LP, an artist like Jones will find a potent opening. He’s not afraid to experiment with varied musical genres, instruments, & keep some of it carnival-creepy. The artistry is unfiltered, uncommercial, & not mainstream. Jones keeps his influences in check. There’s a little Nick Cave, Captain Beefheart, & Chuck E. Weiss in the mix. But like good food when you bite down to taste it you’re not sure what’s been added. You sense the varied garnishes. It’s what makes this music interesting to devour.
All CDs available as noted or at the artists’ websites.