I was originally going to give this four stars, with maybe a half knocked off because some of the band's arrangements were a bit ponderous and the video, which if clean and with good resolution, might be a tad better. But what the hell, forget all that stuff and just watch and listen to perhaps the greatest jazz drummer of all time at the height of his powers driving a band that looks just barely out of high school. It's hard to believe that the guy was 65 and only had five more years to live, getting cut down unexpectedly by a brain tumor. What knocked me over here is not the overall power of Buddy's drumming, but its delicacy (particularly some stunning brush work), which some superb camera work caught beautifully. And,yes, the sound is absolutely first rate.
I've mentioned that some of the arrangements seem a bit ponderous. Like Stan Kenton, who also kept a big band going during this period, there's a tendency towards a rock beat that is great on rhythm (good thing for a drummer!) and ensemble playing, and sometimes weak on melody line, what with lots of pieces all sounding somewhat alike. Fortunately, this album balances some of this with terrific swinging pieces, including Buddy's somewhat signature West Side Story one, and a terrific Carioca. And, the bonus of a much earlier Green Dolphin Street captures one incredible bit of drumming.
Buddy Rich was an original. This dvd (which I saw as demonstration for VHS over 20 years ago) is a big band treasure and Hudson is to be congratulated for bringing it out. I'm hoping that someone can find the tape of a PBS Tommy Dorsey special from about 18 years ago which featured Buddy, Mel Torme, Maureen McGovern, Buddy Morrow and Jack Jones. Buddy was at his best in one of his very last performances, and we got a hint of his work with one of the greatest of all big bands.