Every Sunday OttawaJazzScene.ca recommends a live jazz or improvised music performance in Ottawa-Gatineau from the dozens of live jazz events in our comprehensive Live Jazz Guide we send to donors. There's a lot of wonderful jazz being presented, so it's often a difficult choice.

Sunday, May 20, 2018, 7:30 p.m.: Bytowne Big Band: Best of Buddy Rich at Fatboy's Southern Smokehouse

The Bytowne Big Band ©Brett Delmage, 2018
The Bytowne Big Band at its debut show earlier this year. This time they're paying tribute to drummer Buddy Rich, ©Brett Delmage, 2018

Jazz drummer Buddy Rich (1917–1987) was renowned for his virtuoso technique and precision, and the intensity and speed of his drumming. Self-taught as a musician, he began as a child star in vaudeville and was known as "Baby Traps, the Drum Wonder." By his early 20s, he had transitioned to big bands, playing with Artie Shaw and then Tommy Dorsey. By 1954, he was earning $1,500 per week with the Harry James Orchestra, making him the highest-paid sideman in the world. From 1966 to 1974, he led his own successful big band, and continued to reunite that band for occasional tours until his death. He also performed with many jazz stars including Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Art Tatum, Lionel Hampton, and with Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk (on the 1950 album Bird and Diz).

One of his best-known pieces was a big-band arrangement of a medley of songs from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, first released on the 1966 album Swingin' New Big Band. It contains difficult sections which feature 4/4 and 6/8 time signatures. Rich performed this piece frequently, at different lengths. He was known for his extended solos, in which he used contrasting techniques and dynamics to keep the audience's interest. In Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Best Drummers of All Time, Rich is #15, and the magazine notes how he influenced on British rock drummers like John Bonham of Led Zeppelin "to blast past a simple backbeat toward hard-hitting improvisational patterns, encouraging Phil Collins to abandon a two-bass-drum set-up and focus on his hi-hat work, and just plain flooring Roger Taylor. 'I would say of just sheer technique he's the best I've ever seen,' recalled the Queen drummer."

Rich's music will be the focus of The Bytowne Big Band's second show. The 20-piece big band primarily consists of talented university students and recent graduates, with a couple of Ottawa jazz scene veterans mixed in. Almost all the band members – and particularly leaders Andrew Knox and William O'Neill – have had considerable experience in local student big bands such as the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra. And holding down the drum chair is powerful young drummer Matt Welsh, a recent Carleton graduate.

The Bytowne Big Band's first show was a tribute to the very modern jazz of Snarky Puppy. OttawaJazzScene.ca was impressed with the love and energy with with they interpreted that music, as well as expressing its more subtle intonations and expressions.

For this concert, they'll be playing more in the big band tradition with Rich's music, although they will also perform music from the Phil Collins Big Band (which featured many musicians from the Buddy Rich Big Band).

Ottawa-raised saxophonist Chris Maskell will open the show with a set from his Montreal jazz quartet, with pianist Josh Rager, bassist Jonathan Chapman, and drummer Aaron Dolman.

Read our review of the Bytowne Big Band's first outing: The Bytowne Big Band brings out the subtlety and the energy of Snarky Puppy's music

The Bytowne Big Band, with special guests the Chris Maskell Quartet, will perform at Fatboy's Southern Smokehouse on Sunday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. The cover charge at the door is $10. Fatboy's is in the Byward Market, at 34 Murray Street, off Sussex Drive. OC Transpo routes 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, and 18 all stop on Rideau Street nearby, and the lounge is also walking distance from the Mackenzie-King station on the Transitway.

 OttawaJazzScene.ca announces our pick of the week every Sunday, covering the following Monday to Sunday, in order to give listeners more notice of shows they might want to buy tickets for before they sell out.

Every week all season long we send a full-featured Jazz Bulletin with our Live Jazz Guide full of dozens of live jazz events including this concert to our donors. It's our way of saying 'Thank you! to readers who help us shine a spotlight on the scene all year long. Support OttawaJazzScene.ca and discover a lot more jazz every week