Drummer Joe Ascione writes in the liner notes to My Buddy, “Positive role models are an invaluable asset enabling one to go from imitation to finding one’s voice through self-expression. This CD recording is the opportunity to acknowledge Buddy Rich as the drumming role model who has served as a sort of musical spring board.” One might argue that Rich’s status as a role model is assumed for almost all drummers born since 1930. When Neil Peart paid tribute to the incomparable Rich, he required a studio full of drummers and most of Buddy’s band. The Joe Ascione Octet on the other hand, seems slightly outnumbered by the competition. Ascione begins his homage with an up-tempo “Cottontail,” ably aping Rich’s trademark triple-time hi-hat intro. This is the last time one thinks of Rich while the disc plays. This might sound unfair, but what is one to think when both Ascione and Rich’s faces adorn the cover? The songs “have at one time been recorded by Buddy Rich in a variety of instrumental settings,” we are told. Certainly Rich had a long, distinguished career, but when one thinks of “Straight, No Chaser” or “Limehouse Blues,” one doesn’t necessarily think of him. Most modern listeners might be more familiar with the big bands Rich led from the late ’60s on. The only song Ascione covers from that period is “Love for Sale,” which exhibits none of the energy of Rich’s version-and energy was a Rich hallmark. While this disc is competent enough, Ascione would have been better served by merely offering a thank-you to his idol in the credits, rather than inviting impossible comparisons.
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