Sunday, May 8, 2011

Buddy Rich: At the Top

As a “seasoned” drummer I can honestly say that Buddy Rich was the person who inspired me first to become a drummer/percussionist. Even “The Professor” Steve Smith who has influenced me more than any other contemporary drummer will tell you what a role Buddy has played in his musical life. Honestly until I again watched the Hudson Music DVD Buddy Rich: At The Top I had forgotten how blazing fast his hands were even as he sat on the drum throne hunched over his white marine pearl Slingerland kit as a king over his subjects. From classics such as Norwegian Wood to Love For Sale Buddy and his band were dynamic, rhythmic, melodic and solidly in charge of the music that February night in 1973 at The Top of the Plaza in Rochester, New York.

Buddy and his big band were a mixture of brass and wind instruments including flutes, saxophones, trombones, trumpets, flugle horns, bass guitar and of course Buddy on the drums. The band performed with a high level of technical ability. More astonishing was the ability of the band to perform without being conducted from the traditional position in front of a band. Obviously they were well rehearsed in their music and in the musical cues Buddy would give them from the drums.

West Side Story was clearly the musical piece the crowd was waiting to hear (and see) Buddy perform. In many ways, that piece of music exemplified Buddy Rich. It was grand, emotional, dynamic and energetic. The crowd sat mesmerized as Buddy and his band performed this famous piece of music. Even more astonishing was the pure talent and technical ability he displayed at the kit. In today's music fans are more impressed with how fast a drummer can play double bass drum or how many drums they can get around them or how many body piercings they have. Buddy's command of every little nuance of what it is to be great drummer was on full display. Rudimentary drumming was taken to new heights in speed. I always he knew he was fast but if you really look at what he is doing with one hand it's really astonishing. He played in both matched and traditional grips with most of his playing utilizing the latter. In his left hand he used a push-pull technique which allowed for the beautiful and consistent single sticking. At one point during one of the many solos in West Side Story he played slow and steady single strokes, eventually speeding up and playing one of the fastest single stroked rolls I have ever heard. The only contemporary drummers that comes close is Jo Jo Mayer or Johnny Rabb. Even these great drummers will tell you how they were influenced by Buddy.

Not only was Buddy's band outstanding on their primary instruments they showed their musicianship with the ability of playing other instruments. At one point, the entire trumpet section was playing some fairly complex afro-cuban rhythms over top of Buddy's drumming. The wind section switched between flutes and saxophones depending on the mood and intensity of the piece being played. Having this ability allows a band to be “bigger” than it really is. There was also very little amplification of instruments for this performance, which was a breath of fresh air in our current electronic-laden music. What microphones being used were really only there for the purpose of producing a TV show and not for amplification purposes. The band dynamics rose and fell with the it should.

Buddy was a showman. This concert exemplifies that from his time at the piano or on the trumpet or just interacting with the audience. He clearly connected with them. They loved him and he loved it. That 1973 performance is a classic that all drummers should have in their library At the end of the DVD there is a clip of Buddy playing a solo on the Johnny Carson show in 1984. Even in his advanced years he had command of the kit, his chops and the audience. He exhumed pure joy on the kit and playfulness with the crowd.


(2002). Rich at the Top Buddy Rich and his band. S.l. Milwaukee, WI: Hudson Music Exclusively distributed by Hal Leonard Corp.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Divergence from Scholasticism

The age of enlightenment was a transition in thought of how humanity fit in the known universe at the time. It was a divergence from the education of the past. Until then, the study of mathematics, the classics and the church were the reality of truth of the day. However, this new age would specifically challenge the religious teachings so prevalent during medieval times.

“Cogito ergo sum”

Translated “I think, therefore I am” is what Descarte said (Sanders,2005) in the process of proving his own existence. He went on to say, “In order to think it is necessary to exist.” And, in proving his own existence he had come full circle. Starting out classically educated he rejected all that he was taught. Was Descarte so different than any of us? I think not. We have all questioned our education and upbringing. We have all asked, “God, are You there and why am I here?” What makes Descarte different is he proved (in his own mind) what he sought out to prove which is God exists not because the church said so but by his own method of challenging the accepted norms of the day. I find it amusing and somewhat ironic that Descarte said, “ The reason why so many people find it difficult to know this truth [the existence of God] they never raise their thoughts above material objects.” (Sanders,2005). In other words, one must not always rely on what we see, rather must have faith that it exists by raising our thoughts above the visual and material. According to Hebrews 11:1, “ is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Is that really so different from what Descarte was saying?

At the beginning of his journey Descarte rejected the prevailing teachings of the day. At the end of the journey Descarte confirmed in his own way that God really does exist. The tragedy then is the tragedy of today. The church, whether that be protestant or catholic, has once again failed in general to teach the truth relying more on religion. I too questioned my own faith as a much younger man and while I didn't serve in a royal army during the Thirty Years war and I don't have a degree in law I too being in the middle of my journey have come to the conclusion that God exists. I also think therefore I am and if I think then I exist and if I exist there is one whose very nature is more pure and perfect than mine who inspires these thoughts.


Sanders, T., Nelson, S. H., Morillo, S., & Ellenberger, N. (2005). Encounters in World History: Sources And Themes From The Global Past; Volume 2:From 1500. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Favorite "Ism"

Imperialism occupies a unique place in history as it may be seen as being both beneficial and detrimental depending on the perspective of affected societies. There is no doubt that imperialism possesses the baser characteristics injected and magnified from human interaction such as greed and subjugation. However, these very same characteristics and their respective motivations also led to great innovations in such areas as communications and transportation. The question is do the positives aspects or characteristics of imperialism outweigh the negatives. American imperialism has been beneficial to me because that is my perspective but native peoples such as the Cherokee may have a different opinion. And since my grandmother was half Seneca Indian I temper my regard for imperialism by the knowledge that her heritage and mine was inexorably affected by one “ism” be it british colonialism or another.

Imperialism was and is not new. Consider Rome or Alexander and the empire he built. However, to limit the scope of this writing I will discuss American imperialism. And, since we are in the twilight years of empire it is now more appropriate than ever before to discuss the positive and negatives. With the advent of the Monroe doctrine the United States put European imperial powers on notice:The western hemisphere was ours (Bentley, 2006). American imperialism even supplanted that of another imperial power, Spain. And this was to the detriment of the local inhabitants. An example can be found in that of the Philippines. After promising support for Philippine independence against Spain, then President McKinley took the Philippines under American control. This piece of political double talk resulted in an insurrection that not only cost the lives of combatants but that of civilians (Bentley, 2006 ). Interestingly enough, the Japanese invasion of the Philippines during world war two resulted in one of the most famous quotes from that war when General Douglas Macarthur said, “I shall return.” He felt such a connection to the people of the Philippines that he vowed to return. The Philippine and American people survived a brutal occupation by another imperial power in that of Japan. Some may argue that it is because of the American military installations there is why it was a target but the Japanese needed the islands as a jumping off point. Regardless, the American-Philippine relationship was forged in blood. While the American military has since left the Philippines there is still cooperation between our two peoples.

The United States also intervened in the affairs of Central America. Case in point: Columbia and the Isthmus of Panama. The Panama canal was a great technological achievement for the world and allowed ships carrying people, products or information to transition from the Atlantic to Pacific ocean. On the surface, the motivations seem fairly innocuous. Increased trade. Greater communications. However, to facilitate the building of the canal President Roosevelt supported a rebellion and in return the breakaway state of Panama ceded land for the project (Bentley, 2006 ). This is another example of an imperialist and capitalist scheme leading to innovation that benefited not only the United States but also the rest of the world.

Imperialisms benefits are all in the eye of the beholder. As a modern American I have benefited from this imperfect “ism”. And I believe the rest of the world has benefited from American imperialism. I'm sure that when the Russian Navy flotilla transited the Panama Canal last year to visit their new friends in Venezuela they were happy to take advantage of one of the products of American imperialism.


Bentley, J. H., Ziegler, H. F., & Streets, H. E. (2006). Traditions & Encounters A Brief Global History. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

My Side Of The Street

The process of national unity begins with the realization that, though different, people can come together to effect change everyone can benefit from. This is achieved through the recognition of a common goal. For example national unity may be the product of a perceived threat such as the time after the United States declared war on Great Britain in 1812. Canadians put their political differences aside in light of possible invasion by United States forces (Bentley, 2006). And, in fact, Canadians did repel invasions by American forces, which created a sense of Canadian pride (Bentley, 2006). This sense of pride enabled the various political factions, namely British Canadians and French Canadians, to put aside their differences in order to grow the Dominion.

Once the process has started, the momentum of unity is maintained by ever evolving goals commensurate with the challenges presented by opportunity of a changing landscape. An example common to both Canada and the United States is the construction of national rail lines. These transportation networks opened up otherwise inaccessible geographic regions for expansion, mass communication and advancement of opportunity. While Canada is an example of not allowing differences in socio-political background to impede the progress of unification and therefore nation building, the United States is an example of allowing competing socio-political influences to not only impede progress but completely disrupt it through civil war. In essence, unity can be maintained by accepting political differences for a common goal or impeded by siding with one view over another. Once common goals are depleted, a vacuum of competing ideas begins to exist. This vacuum can lead to polarization to opposing view points and fragmentation of nations.

The United States of America is on the precipice of becoming completely polarized by competing ideas of what Democracy is. Pulling back from the edge would take an event of such extraordinary proportions none of us would care to bare it. Perhaps the economic crisis we are currently in could be one way of unifying the country. The Problem is everyone has competing ideas of how to do pull out of it. In the 19th century countries such as Canada had the United States to be concerned about, which unified and enabled them to take on national projects such their national rail road. The United States had the lure of opportunity to bring focus and unity to the country. Perhaps we need a villain we can all agree on. After the attacks of 11 September 2001 we all agreed on a villain: Bin Laden and the Taliban. However, President Bush broadened the scope of our retaliation and in doing so eroded the unity of the country. What are the lessons from the past? Differences can be overcome, even from the farthest ends of the political spectrum, by address of a common goal, suitable to and for the common good of all. However, once a common goal has been so diluted as to become unrecognizable then support and therefore unity ceases to exist.

In the end, I find some wisdom in that of a 1860 quote by Philip Lightfoot Lee with regards to the union, “Should it be dissolved, then he was for Kentucky. If Kentucky fell apart he would stand by Bullitt County. Bullitt County dissolved, his sympathies lay with his hometown of Sheperdsville. And if the unthinkable should happen and Sheperdsville be torn asunder, then he was for his side of the street.” (Davis, 1980). Hopefully, we can find some unity in this country and I won't have to defend my side of the street.


Bentley, J. H., Ziegler, H. F., & Streets, H. E. (2006). Traditions & Encounters A Brief Global History. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Davis, W.C. (1980). The Orphan Brigade. New York, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.

The Have's and the Have Nots

The “haves” and the “have nots” have always been with us. And industrialization is only a name for the product of the social and technological change brought on by the power of increased knowledge and understanding of the world around us. Political ideologies are a function of the interaction of industrialization into the lives of those it affects. Moreover, those it affects (either positively or negatively) will be drawn to the ideology which follows along with their experience. Capitalism was not, is not, nor will it ever be a perfect system for one simple reason: humans will always want what they do not have or want more of what they already have. However, capitalism when given the opportunity works. The United States of America is proof of that concept. It has, for the time being, the freest economy and best opportunity to become what is someone desires to be.

Capitalism works because it gives opportunity to increase one's own wealth whether they be the factory worker or factory owner. Adam Smith said, “ But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favor and show them that is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them.” (Sanders, 2005)In other words, the factory worker who needs to meet his/her own needs would and should not perform a service for free but perform it in the expectation that they will receive advantage through compensation for their activities. Capitalism is self-perpetuating. In continuing the example of the factory and the factory worker, the factory supplies employment, the employees get paid and perhaps purchase the products of the company. Because the factory has increased orders the company hires more workers and the cycle continues.

By contrast Marxism's maxim is “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.” (Sanders, 2005) In essence a persons work is not to increase their own wealth but is in the interest of all people and the state. What is the advantage of Marxism? Where is the incentive to invent or be creative? There is none when the only goal is to serve the common good of your fellow worker. Marx sought to end the class system of old Europe and essentially new Europe He attracted the malcontents and “have nots” and those who essentially wanted what they did not have.

Hard work, invention, entrepreneurial spirit are some of the driving forces behind capitalism and thus the great technological advances of the last two-hundred years. What has marxism, communism, statism, or liberalism given us? Capitalism is not perfect but the model works and contrary to the “Star Trek” mentality of the current liberal thought, there will always be those who have and those who have not. Everyone has a choice to work hard and improve their situation.


Sanders, T., Nelson, S. H., Morillo, S., & Ellenberger, N. (2005). Encounters in World
History: Sources And Themes From The Global Past; Volume 2:From 1500. New York, NY:

Liberté – égalité - fraternité

I believe the seeds of revolution are discontent and a desire for recognition. Watered by ambivalence and tyranny, these seeds grow steadily until they become this fruit we call revolution. In America, Haiti and France these seeds were planted by colonial imperialism and watered by distant, tyrannical Kings, and an ambivalent, selfish consumer class. All three revolutions were similar in as much as they were inspired by the ideas of the enlightenment. In other words, governments should be of and by the people and all humans are equal. However, each movements (Haitian, American, and French) commitment to the latter varied depending upon the influence of those in revolt.

North America's seeds of revolution were sown immediately following the French and Indian war, and the larger Seven Years war from 1756 – 1763. American colonists were required to shoulder a share of the burden of debt incurred during this time. The situation was exacerbated by the taxes levied on the colonies: Sugar Act, Stamp Act, Townshend Act and Tea Act (Bentley, 2006). The colonists had no representation in parliament. Frustrated by this lack of representation they eventually issued the Declaration of Independence. Discontent in a lack representation in England matured to revolution. While the American colonists wanted independence they still retained british laws and culture (Bentley, 2006). The age of enlightenment was well represented in the American Revolution by Thomas Jefferson borrowed the ideas of John Locke but adapted to the idea of American self-identity (Sanders, 2005).

While the Americans idea of revolution included retaining their cultural identity, revolutionaries in France sought to create a new society (Bentley, 2006). Oddly enough part of the discontent of the French and in particular the Third Estate lay in the inequity of taxation. France was burdened by debt incurred in their aid to the Americans (Bentley, 2006). This is an irony of history, yet the ideas of the revolution were still tied to the Enlightenment. The newly transformed National Assembly issued The Rights of Man and Citizen. In particular this document included the phrase, “men are born free and equal.” (Sanders, 2005). Again, the idea of self-governance and equality become the mantra of the moment.

Haiti, while more complicated, due to shifting alliances by Toussaint L'Ouverture (self appointed leader of the revolution in haiti) a common theme emerges. In a letter to his fellow Haitians, L'Ouverture writes, “I want liberty and equality to reign throughout St. Domingue.” (Sanders, 2005) Again, one of the ideas of the enlightenment surfaces in a land so far from where those ideas originated but propagated by the American Revolution. Perhaps the reintroduction of by the gens de couleur into Haiti back from fighting for France against the British in the American Revolution help Toussaint facilitate this revolt.

In the end, the search for equality and self-determination guided each the aforementioned revolutionary movements. While the results of these movements were three differing forms of republic and therefore democracy they are still equally important in history for what they represent and to the generations since then. Perhaps someone should remind the current administration of how our country began. Now is not the time for another King George unwilling to hear those being governed and a parliament taxing the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of future American generations.


Bentley, J. H., Ziegler, H. F., & Streets, H. E. (2006). Traditions & Encounters A Brief Global History. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Sanders, T., Nelson, S. H., Morillo, S., & Ellenberger, N. (2005). Encounters in World
History: Sources And Themes From The Global Past; Volume 2:From 1500. New York, NY: