During the '30s and early '40s, big band jazz was popular music. The recordings of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Artie Shaw had tremendous mass appeal, but due to changing tastes and skyrocketing expenses, by the mid-'40s these large ensembles began to lose popularity. These recent reissues illustrate the evolution of big band and its continuing viability, even though it's not as popular as it once was. Buddy Rich wasn't the most sensitive drummer, but he had tremendous drive and technique, and could easily lift and drive a big band, as he does here. Rich had been associated with the swing outfits of Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey, but this was a be-bop ensemble, modeled on those of Woody Herman and Dizzy Gillespie. Some of his charts were by Gillespie and Herman arrangers; some represented forward-looking stuff by Ed Finckel that is among the CD's highlights.
The post-bop outfit led by Kenny Clarke (considered the first bop drummer) and writer/pianist Francy Boland plays hard-driving music that has a funkier quality than does bop. The international personnel include a number of top soloists, such as tenorman Billy Mitchell, Ronnie Scott, and Karl Drevo, and trumpeters Idrees Sulieman and Benny Bailey (a Clevelander who, if he hadn't been hidden in Lionel Hampton's trumpet section and then been an expatriate since the early '50s, would be generally recognized as a great bop musician). Bailey has it all -- originality, power, chops, and range. Electric and acoustic pianist/composer/arranger Clare Fischer cut Thesaurus, a wonderful album, in 1969. Fischer exhibits the influence of Billy Strayhorn, Gil Evans, and Gerry Mulligan in his fresh, meticulously put-together charts. He's contributed some notable compositions to the disc, including "The Duke," "Miles Behind," and "In Memoriam." High-quality albums such as these have the capacity to inspire younger musicians to keep the flame of big band jazz burning.