BUZZY DROOTIN, TWICE

First, a story from the man I call The Swing Explorer — the magnificent saxophonist Joel Press:

Buzzy Drootin spent his final decades in the Boston area, initially, with brother Al’s excellent Dixie band at the Scotch and Sirloin (Al rescued him from a day gig at Manny’s Music Store in New York City), and later on the Cape and at Sandy’s Jazz Revival in Beverly, Massachusetts.

When Sandy’s reopened in the Eighties, Bob Wilber led a band which included guitarist Gray Sargent, trumpeters Jeff Stout and Dave Whitney, trombonist Phil Wilson, tenor saxophonists Art Bartol and myself.  Gray, Jeff, and I played in Buzzy’s quintet throughout the following  summer.

Buzzy retained his love for the music and his sense of humor throughout his final years. When a member of the audience requested a Latin number, Buzzy replied, “We only play American music.”

Second, a video preserved for us by archivist and musician Bob Erwig, of a Wild Bill Davison group performing in Sweden in 1984:

The other musicians are trombonist Bill Allred, clarinetist Chuck Hedges, pianist Bob Pilsbury, and bassist Jack Lesberg.  Listen to Buzzy behind the first choruses of Bill and Wild Bill, and his work in the final chorus.  You can’t hear Buzzy’s trademark growl-roar as well as you should, but the joy on his face is vivid, his energy is audible, and his pulse is wonderful.

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4 responses to “BUZZY DROOTIN, TWICE

  1. Pingback: BUZZY DROOTIN, TWICE

  2. What a delightful musical tidbit! Many thanks to Bob Erwig for sharing it with us! Bill’s chops were a bit tired at this point in the concert, but his power & drive are scarely affected.

    One night in Condon’s I had a chance to chat with Bill about his embouchure. I told him that I had used a close-up photo of him in my book, “Chops”) that had head shots I’d taken of some 400 of the greatest brassmen of the past 50 years. He complained to me that writers always reported that he played out of the side of his mouth. He showed me that he put his mouthpiece right in the center but pointed his cornet off to his right!

    Chuck Hedges certainly deserves to be heard more often & Bill Allred is really spectacular! Too bad the cameraman couldn’t figure out who was soloing while he was wailing away! His son John is even MORE spectacular! As a trombonist myself, I can really appreciate (& envy) what they can do on the horn.

    Besides having a great beat I think that Buzzy’s smile gave an extra lift to the band. Too few drummers seem to enjoy playing. Only three others come immediately to mind: Jo Jones, Osie Johnson & Smitty Smith.

    Buzzy was gone from the NY scene when I was covering the clubs & concerts, but I did tape a Tribute to him presented by his daughter as a one-woman cabaret show several years ago. I donated it to the archives of the IJS at Rutgers.
    She told many personal stories about him that you probably won’t find anywhere else, so if you’d like to learn more about Buzzy, drop by the Dana Library & ask to see it.

  3. BD with BD– After viewing this posting “Buzzy Drootin, Twice” it dawned on me why the tempo drops so pronouncedly from start to finish on “Your Lucky To Me.” And if you watch the take of “On The Alamo” you’ll see Bill turn to Buzzy and say “Geez!”… (some mumbling) then give Jack and Buzzy “looks” … to which Jack (as soon as Bill turns away) looks over at Buzzy and flicks his head in the direction of the Wild One… as if to say “He’s having a bad hair day.”

    There are Rhythm Section men/women who have a great inner feel of where the tempo lays best for a particular song in order to get into the groove right from the start- and stay there. We all know Eddie Condon had that gift. Joe Thomas sure had it! Bill, I don’t think, had that feel a lot of the time. I worked with him many times along the Westchester and Connecticut Golf/Country Club trail, up to Hartford, at the Colonial in Toronto and at Dinkler’s in Syracuse. It was always a challenge to keep the damn band going and at times it was torture (back breaking) trying to do so.

    Watching these videos- “You’re Lucky” and “Alamo”- brought back uncomfortable memories- but more importantly for me it was revealing as well. Marvelous as he was, dear Bill often called tempos for a tune where there was no groove- and you can’t make a groove happen, not even with a shovel, when everyone is not comfy. A tempo must be right-comfortable. He did that night after night especially at the Colonial. (He would call “Crazy Rhythm” at a 120 mph tempo that a six-piece Dixieland band would have to struggle with… I’m thinking this is really “Crazy Tempo!”) Add to that- Bill takes his mouth off the horn many times… at times coming back in a tad behind the beat… so there’s this whisker of hesitation… and the tempo begins to gradually slow down. Listen/watch this video and when it comes close to the end move the slider back to the beginning and let go. There is a marked difference in tempo. The rhythm section finally got to a comfy tempo- where it should have been set when it started. Nicky Carella had an expression for when someone was rushing or dragging- “He’s in the next County!” or “He’s back in the County we just left!”

    Tempo variables are fine if planned. It’s a drag for everyone when it either runs away or slows down. Happily for Jack and Buzzy YLTM does find its groove. If you watch “On The Alamo” you’ll see/hear what Buzzy was famous for- those wonderful little double-timed and tripletized fills in someone’s solo, or a hard sock to his bass drum… seen here with no front head! They are as much a part of his trademark (maybe more so)… along with those guttural sounds. Imo the piano solo on “Alamo” is a gem as is Bill Allred’s.

  4. Great to read the comments on my father. He was a special man with a great smile and a big heart. Appreciate seeing people remembering him and appreciating him. Best all!

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