Most jazz fans have a list–written or otherwise–of the audio and video recordings they always wanted and wished for, but could never find.

Jazz historians are still hoping that a sound recording of the elusive trumpeter Buddy Bolden, said to have influenced King Oliver, Louis, Bix and the rest, will someday surface.

Drum fans would love to believe that more film will surface of Chick Webb and Dave Tough, as well as Max Roach and Kenny Clarke during their groundbreaking, mid-1940s period with Charlie Parker.

Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich aficianados are pretty specific about what they’re looking for. At JazzLegends.com, the most common requests are for:

A video of the 1938 Benny Goodman Carnegie Hall concert (only brief newsreel footage exists).

A video of the Gene Krupa/Buddy Rich drum battle of 1952 at Jazz at the Philharmonic (late JATP jazz impressario Norman Granz denies that any film was shot at JATP concerts, though newsreel footage of a 1953 JATP show in Helsinki has recently surfaced).

A video of a Gene Krupa/Buddy Rich drum battle on “The Tonight Show” (just a rumor right now).

The Buddy Rich/Statler Hilton shows of 1982.

The Statler Hilton programs have an interesting history. In 1981, Buddy was offered the chance at hosting his own television program, geared toward public television, entitled “The Buddy Rich Show.” Three programs were filmed at New York city’s venerable Statler Hilton Hotel, each featuring BR and the band, and special guests Ray Charles, Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Mel Torme’, Anita O’Day and Cathy Rich.

The programs and the idea of a regular series were never sold. That’s a shame, too, as Buddy was as beloved as a “personality” as he was a drummer, which is one reason “The Tonight Shows” with Rich as a guest are so valuable. The idea behind “The Buddy Rich Show” was to feature the master himself, in a no-holds-barred hour of banter and music. Today, with a billion cable channels devoted to everything from dogs to golf, the program would have sold in a second.

What kept these programs on the “holy grail” list was the fact that, seemingly, no one actually saw them since they were filmed some 27 years ago. JazzLegends.com and various colleagues received several telephone calls over the years from someone claiming to own them–or knew someone who did–but outside of a few minutes’ worth of tantalizing footage that did come to light, the leads were dead ends.

DrumChannel.com, one of the great and most complete percussion sites on the worldwide web, got a similar telephone call not too long ago. This time the lead was quite alive: The legendary Statler Hilton programs are here, and DrumChannel plans to release all three, edited “Buddy Rich Shows” as they were intended for broadcast.

What’s available right now is something called “Buddy Rich Up Close,” a DVD that contains all the songs performed by Buddy and the band over the three-show span. In 1982, Rich was pretty much over his infatuation with rock and funk and had started featuring some of the more worthwhile, jazz charts the band had performed since 1966. “Buddy Rich Up Close” is highlighted by electric versions of “West Side Story,” “Bugle Call Rag,” “Love for Sale,” “Dancing Men,” “Greensleeves,” and what later became one of BR’s most requested numbers, Joe Zawinul’s “Birdland,” a big hit for the group Weather Report.

The band and its leader were at their individual and collective heights in this year. The playing of the master, was, of course, astounding. But those who knew Rich well would tell you that when he was enthused about something–and he was very, very enthused at the prospect of this television series–he would play way beyond astounding, as if that were possible. It was possible, and the evidence is on “Buddy Rich Up Close.”

The 116-minute total running time includes some stellar extras as well, including an interview with Buddy’s last pianist, rehearsal footage, alternate take of “Birdland,” a promo for “The Buddy Rich Show,” and two unique audio mixes. One mix favors the band. The other favors Buddy.

There’s a lot of Buddy Rich material out there, commercially issued and otherwise, and all of it is good. But “Buddy Rich Up Close,” as well as the future releases of The Statler Hilton programs, are quite special. They show a genius at work, to be sure, but the programs feature a happy, swinging, energetic and very real Buddy Rich not “playing the star,” but being the star that he was.

That’s why these were and are called “The Buddy Rich Show,” or as BR might have described them at the time, “Johnny Carson, eat your heart out.”

JazzLegends.com will do everything possible to make this available to our visitors. Right now, you can order by visiting www.DrumChannel.com. — Bruce Klauber

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