In April 1985 – two years before his untimely passing – Buddy Rich and his band recorded a concert at One Pass Productions' King Street Studio in San Francisco using state-of-the-art equipment designed to capture the band "in a typically ‘live' setting" with natural acoustic balances and three-dimensional imaging. The concert was divided into two nearly hour-long programs, the Channel One set and the West Side Story set. Channel One was distributed by Pioneer and Sony, but a far grimmer fate awaited West Side Story. The masters were stored at One Pass, which a few years later was sold to Editel. In 1990, when a fire swept through the Editel facility, the tapes were soaked in water and presumably destroyed.
Ten years later Steve Michelson, the owner of One Pass and executive producer of the King Street session, and producer Gary Reber were working together on another project when they began talking about the concert in '85 and musing about how marvelous it would be if Buddy's last recording could somehow be officially released. Michelson thought the master tapes had been lost in the fire, but as it turned out, Reber had master and sub-master tapes stored away. Needless to say, everything was in wretched condition, and restoring the tapes would be no walk in the park. But Michelson and Reber – with expert technical help – set about doing it, painstakingly overhauling the audio. The result, as you'll hear on The Lost Tapes, is worthy of a Michelangelo or a Rembrandt.
The band is at the peak of its game, as was any ensemble led by the incomparable Buddy Rich. Buddy, of course, is the dynamo that fuels the engine, but everyone else is up to the challenge in a concert that includes such demanding charts as "Mexicali Nose," "Willowcrest," "The Red Snapper" and Bill Reddie's superlative arrangement of the "West Side Story" medley that includes two of Buddy's breathtaking extended drum solos. Rounding out the program are Monk's "‘Round Midnight, Ellington's "Cotton Tail," Don Piestrup's "New Blues" and Mike Manieri's "Tee Bag," the last performed by Buddy, pianist Bill Cunliffe and bassist Dave Carpenter.
The standout soloist is long-time Rich crew chief Steve Marcus, who is a marvel on tenor ("Nose, "Willowcrest, "Midnight, "Cotton Tail ) and soprano ("New Blues ). Cunliffe is impressive too, as are Carpenter, trumpeter Paul Phillips, alto Bob Bowlby ("Snapper ) and tenor Brian Sjoerdinga ("West Side Story ). But the biggest kick of all is hearing Buddy, a 67-year old whirlwind of energy and enthusiasm, who never slackens the pace. This is a remarkable document, one that no fan of the great Buddy Rich should let pass.