People who know put Buddy Rich at or near the top of the list of jazz drummers.
Two things are evident in this interesting interview from 1956: Both Rich and Gene Krupa, another drumming legend, seemed like very nice guys. The other takeaway is that Rich, according to Krupa, was something of a drummer savant:
When I speak of natural drummers I’m talking about guys that are playing with the talent God gave ‘em. But here’s an amazing thing. While this isn’t true of either Ray McKinley or Bauduc-it’s true of Buddy. You can watch Buddy play and actually if you watch him, you’d think he’s the most studied person in the world. And even Buddy himself will make something-like, we’ll be in the dressing room, he’ll pick up a pair of sticks and say: “Well, what is this?” And he’ll rattle a little bit and actually, if I break it down, get him to do it slow enough, I can name it. I can break it down into whatever it is. And inherently, naturally, he fingers all these things correctly. Now, I know why this is.
Rich is familiar to many middle age folks who weren’t jazz fans because of his frequent appearances on The Tonight Show. It was a natural: Rich was funny and personable and Johnny Carson was an amateur drummer.
Drummers must be a competitive lot. Many of the clips on YouTube feature drumming contests, including one on Seseme Street in which Rich beats Animal – but ends up wearing the snare. Here are a battle with Krupa and his band playing If I Were a Bell and One O’Clock Jump. Information also is available at Rich’s website.by