Buddy Rich Memorial Concert (1991)

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At a Glance:

  • Acoustic drums: Ludwig Super Classic with purple finish with "Vibra-Fibing"

  • Smaller "Jazz" setup most likely built from pieces of the "Presto" kit; bass drum most likely 20-inch instead of 24-inch.

  • Pedals: In the video, it's clear that Neil is using a Yamaha double-pedal. He'd previously used Camco and Ludwig Speed King pedals.

  • Cymbals: Avedis Zildjian, Wuhan (China type)

  • Sticks: Pro-Mark 747 wood tip

  • 5.5x14 Slingerland Artist Snare - with matching purple finish - 3-ply Shell w/8 lugs

  • Drum tech: Larry Allen

RICH VS. PEART (Modern Drummer, "In Search of the Right Feel," February 1994, p-66)

The drumming community witnessed a rare event a couple of years ago when Neil Peart agreed to headline the Buddy Rich Memorial Concert, held in New York. Neil, who avoids performing clinics, made the exception due to the fact that his involvement would help provide a college scholarship for a needy drummer. But what was it like to go from a three-piece rock group to a sixteen-piece big band?

According to Neil, "It was a major, major challenge. I vacillated a lot about accepting it, and I wished I had an excuse not to! I wished I could have said, 'Sorry, I'm going to be in Finland that day.' All kidding aside, I realized that year that I had been playing drums for twenty-five years, so I felt I should do it for myself to mark the occasion. I got the video of the first Buddy Rich Memorial Concert, and I was just so impressed at how well everyone played...I had enormous self-doubt after seeing it," Neil admits. "But then I got inspired and thought, I'll do it like Buddy would have done it! I realized that all the other drummers essentially just 'did themselves,' as opposed to trying to play in a similar style to Buddy. I tried to learn what Buddy played on the songs I was going to be performing, exactly as he played them. I wanted to honor him by trying to play as much like him as I could. I even tried to figure out the stickings he used, as much as possible. I felt safe, in a way, following his example into what were unknown musical waters for me. It was such a challenge because I had to try and get into his mind. Wandering around inside Buddy's conception of things was amazing. To see how he would set up a fill and execute it, and even how he would view an entire arrangement, was very rewarding research for me."

Unfortunately for Neil, the evening wasn't as successful as he had hoped. "I did have a few problems with the event. I was the last drummer to rehearse with the band on the rehearsal day, and since it was late in the day a few of the guys in the band had to leave to play gigs. Steve Marcus, Buddy's long-time tenor sax player, had to leave. The pianist had to leave early, so that was a drag. The Basie and Ellington songs I performed were both founded on piano/bass/drums trio, and to not be able to fully rehearse with the piano made it difficult. The setup on the day of the concert wasn't well-planned, either. I was far away from the band, and it was very tough for me to hear them. The horns were inaudible to me! When I watch the video of my performance I can see myself straining to hear them. It's hard to play under those conditions. The performance came off okay, but I just didn't enjoy it. The next day I had a long drive from New York back to Toronto, and the drive was the perfect therapy for my disappointment. I really got to think about it, and I got re-inspired to try it again. I want to be able to enjoy it and do the kind of job I know I can do. I hope to perform with the band again.

"The performance helped to inspire Neil in other ways. "When I got back to Toronto, Rush was in the midst of working on Roll The Bones, and I was writing the lyrics for a song called 'Bravado.' It has a line, "We burn our wings flying too close to the sun." Well, I'd aimed for this incredibly high goal, to play like Buddy Rich in his band—to play like the greatest drummer who has ever played. If I burned my wings a little, big deal!"

Images from Buddy Rich Memorial Scholarship Concerts (2006)

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