Unlike Buddy Rich’s, drummer Davie Tough’s style was notable for its absence of style. Tough might be considered the anti-Rich, forsaking bombast and showmanship for the subtle pleasures of supporting the tune. When he replaced the famously flamboyant Gene Krupa in Benny Goodman’s band, the prickly leader forced Tough to play using only brushes and snare. This merely served to accent Tough’s strengths. “Dave was the single most musical drummer that I’ve ever known,” Artie Shaw is quoted as saying in Burt Koral’s book Drummin’ Men. Similar kudos follows as other musicians rush to sing Tough’s praises. Of course they do-here was a drummer who made them sound good without competing for the spotlight. Eddie Metz takes a few solos on his tribute album and performs them with elegant precision in that four-on-the-floor Chicago style. For the most part, however, he lays back and lets his six partners stretch out. The songs are drawn from 1916 to the late ’30s, supplemented by a 1998 Metz original, “Tough Sledding,” that is suitably respectful of the period without being a museum piece. Of note are “Hindustan,” “Sophisticated Swing,” “Why Begin Again” and “At the Codfish Ball.” Choosing an unexpected subject for tribute, Metz and His Gang have honored Tough well with a thoroughly delightful recording.
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