There are Underrated Musicians, Musicians Deserving Wider Recognition, Neglected Musicians, and Ignored Musicians.
Here’s a picture of a very fine jazz individualist, born one hundred years ago today. How many people will recognize him?
“That’s BUZZY DROOTIN!” I hear some of my readers saying. Right you are.
Buzzy played most often with Eddie Condon’s bands — in the club and on records — but you can also hear him with Ruby Braff, George Wein’s Newport All-Stars, Max Kaminsky, Sidney Bechet, Jack Teagarden, Vic Dickenson, Jimmy McPartland, Ralph Sutton, Wild Bill Davison, Herman Autrey, Herb Hall, Claude Hopkins, Benny Morton, Pee Wee Russell, and family members Al and Sonny Drootin.
I was lucky enough to see him at close — sometimes deafening range — in 1972, at the Sunday afternoon jam sessions run by Red Balaban at Your Father’s Mustache. We sat right up in front of the bandstand, so Buzzy and his drums were about ten feet away, and his characteristic snare and ride-cymbal work drove the band. His playing wasn’t fussy; he didn’t make aural jokes as did Jo Jones — but his tempos never faltered, and he had immense energy. His sound was entirely his own, and I can still hear and see in my mind’s eye the simultaneous open-mouthed sounds (somewhere between a roar and a growl) that he made in the last sixteen bars of his solo.
His intensity was remarkable: I never saw George Wettling or Dave Tough in the flesh, but Buzzy had some of that same “I don’t care!” energy and ferocity. Yet who remembers him today?
Kevin Dorn met Buzzy and celebrates him in his own playing, of course.
I would like to take credit for remembering his birthday, his centenary, but I have to give credit to Confetta Ras and her magnificent ON THIS DAY IN JAZZ AGE MUSIC website (one of the most generous cornucopias I’ve ever seen) for reminding us all of what April 22 is all about (http://jazzagemusic.blogspot.com/).
P.S. I know I have among my readers not only people who’ve heard Buzzy but also those rare folks who have played alongside him. Comments and celebrations, anyone?