The filmmaker Brian Morgan seems to me to be someone full of energy, creativity, and humor.  And he’s set out on a course of action that seems both logical and daring: to make an expansive documentary film that will do justice to the life and music of the remarkable jazz drummer Buddy Rich.  From every bit of evidence we have — the recordings, the interviews, the television and film appearances — Rich was not only a monumental musician but someone determined to go his own way in all things — thus a first-rate subject for a large study on both counts.  And since so many jazz legends have been documented many years after they are dead, timing is everything . . . while the people who knew and worked with Buddy are still on the planet.

Brian has one great advantage in that he has the enthusiastic commitment of Cathy Rich, Buddy’s daughter — someone blessed with some of her father’s determination.

Projects like this are no longer funded by major grants or huge Hollywood studios (we know that if one of the latter got hold of this idea, it wouldn’t resemble Buddy’s life or music at all when it was through) . . . so Brian and Cathy are asking for your help, your support, and your contribution.  Even if you can’t bankroll the project in some dramatic way, I urge you to watch the video here.  This site is accepting one-dollar donations, although I am sure they wouldn’t mind more sweeping largesse — and since just about everyone who ever sat down at a drum set since 1937 has in some way been conscious of Mr. Rich, I wish that all the drummers — professional, amateur, and people who tap on the table — would take this appeal seriously.

And as a reward for your patience and generosity, here is a seventeen-minute collection of excerpts from the 1950 film Norman Granz never saw to its completion, tentatively titled IMPROVISATION, which finds Buddy among Hank Jones, Ray Brown, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Bill Harris, Harry Edison, Flip Phillips, and Ella Fitzgerald . . . not only showing off the fast company who worked with and admired Buddy, but how wonderfully he fit into this varied presentation by musicians with very different styles:

May your happiness increase.


  1. Great to see & hear these legendary musicians again. Oh wait – – – the very, very talented Bill Harris and Flip Phillips rarely get the recognition they deserve.

  2. Rich Liebman

    Michael, thanks for that wonderful clip.

    My happiness just increased exponentially.

  3. Michael,

    As you have announced on “Jazz Lives,” I have unearthed some previously unissued live recordings of Buddy Rich while he was a member of Bunny Berigan’s band. To say that he was a volcanic presence in that band, as he was in every band he ever played in, would be an understatement. I hope to present an audio clip of BR and BB together on “Moten Swing” on the “Mr. Trumpet” website very soon. Hearing him inspire Bunny and the other jazz soloists in the Berigan band on this recording (Georgie Auld, tenor sax; Gus Bivona, clarinet; and Ray Conniff, trombone) is a real thrill.

    I would very much like to contact Cathy Rich. She is a perfect combination of Buddy and Marie. I look forward to the Rich documentary. It will be incredibly entertaining not only because of Buddy’s nonpareil drumming, but because of the many stories about him that will undoubtedly be included. (There are two in “Mr. Trumpet.”).

    Michael P. Zirpolo
    “Mr. Trumpet…the Trials, Tribulations and
    Triumph of Bunny Berigan”

    P.S. I’d also like to contact Ray Conniff’s daughter, Tamara.

  4. Thomas P. Hustad

    I have written a book about Ruby Braff. Ruby told me that one night a many drummers gathered and each tried to outdo everyone else. Buddy Rich waited until everyone had finished and then duplicated everything that had been done but using only one hand. I also met Mr. Rich once by chance, seeing him in a Chicago airport. He was with one other person. I approached him. I was a college student at the time, and we had a very nice conversation. I told him I had attended a concert at The Prom in St. Paul where, after he broke his 3rd bass drum head, he asked if anyone in the audience had some moleskin. Our conversation continued and he expressed interest in my reaction to his latest albums. I probably should have requested an autograph, but the meeting itself was a joy.

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