THE CASE FOR RANDY CAPUTO
For the past year, or so it seems, drummer Randy Caputo has been getting a nice amount of press and publicity for his show, which is billed as “Randy Caputo as Gene Krupa.” A number of sincere folks both in our Forum and away from it have voiced negative opinions about what Caputo is doing as it relates to Gene. The consensus from those who don’t agree with the concept of “Randy Caputo as Gene Krupa,” place his show somewhere between sin and capitalism run wild. On the other hand, there seem to be plenty of Gene’s fans out there who are happy there is another person out there who is spreading the Krupa gospel.
I do get the sense, though, that not a lot of people have heard him play, and that even fewer really know him. Even before hearing him and knowing him a bit, my belief was that anything that “gets the word out there” in a positive sense is just great. While there are plenty of Krupa-related books, sticks, web sites, CDs, DVDs, videos, forums and drum sets on the market, nothing can replace a “Krupa-in-the-flesh,” even once or twice removed as in this instance.
“Randy Caputo as Gene Krupa,” by the way, is not the first case of someone doing a Krupa-type show with an emphasis on Krupa music, style and mannerisms. The great drummer Mike Berkowitz currently leads but one of the Krupa orchestras out there. There are several players of varying ages in the New England area who continue to put on Krupa tribute shows. Anyone remember a drummer named Brent Brace who lead a Krupa band years and years ago in a touring nostalgia show? There are many, many more out there, to be sure.
I worked some years ago with a great gentleman and singer, the late Sonny Averona. There were few who came closer to Frank Sinatra in looks and sound than Sonny. He had many, many fans and I often felt that some of these people actually believed they were seeing and hearing Sinatra. For a number of them, truth be told, hearing, seeing and hanging out with Sonny Averona would be as close as they would ever get to the real Frank Sinatra. So yes, Sonny Averona served a purpose. He presented top quality music, was backed by top quality players, and performed to happy, enthusiastic and appreciative audiences. Where’s the crime? It’s not for nothing that there are at least two “Rat Pack” shows now touring, entertaining the masses who never had the opportunity to see and hear Frank, Dean and Sam in the flesh.
The fact is, as long as there is civilization, there will be those who impersonate and/or pay tribute to Elvis, Sinatra, and in a more narrow sense, Gene and Buddy. And yes, let’s not forget the thousands of would-be Buddy Rich clones out there. At least two of them, Butch Miles and Donny Osbourne, Jr., have come to national prominence. Let’s face it, most drummers of a certain age wanted to be Gene or Buddy at one time or another. Randy Caputo deserves all the credit in the world. He’s doing it, and in the process, is developing a whole new audience for the real thing.
Randy Caputo is a dedicated, talented and diligent young man who would have to love Gene Krupa in order to do what he’s doing. Having played drums professionally with the likes of Charlie Ventura and Milt Buckner over the past 40 years, I’ve done my share of Krupa impressions, and at times, I actually thought I was “channeling” GK. The first time I ever played “Dark Eyes” with Ventura–can you imagine?–was one such case. Randy Caputo appears to be channeling Gene at times, but he does it with such disarming good humor that it quickly becomes obvious that he’s just out there to entertain and have a good time. I knew guys who played the “Buddy Rich character” 24 hours a day. So did you. Get off this bus!!
Technically, of course, he’s got the Krupa licks and looks down very well, but if you listen carefully, you’ll hear that the licks and the solos often represent Randy’s interpretation of Gene. There are a number of things Caputo plays that would have been, I believe, beyond Gene in a technical sense, but Randy weaves them appropriately in and out of the Krupa-oriented whole. His concept works, and I have little doubt that off-camera, Randy Caputo has a style of his own that may be influenced by Gene and Buddy, but is certainly not a bonafide impersonation.
I urged Randy to let JazzLegends.com offer a Randy Caputo DVD on the web site in order to give our many visitors and supporters the opportunity to really hear and see this sincere and talented gentlemen. The DVD is in three sections: A drum solo from the Orange County Fair in California, a nice production of his “Radio Show Band” with female vocalists and retro costumes, and the famed Gene versus Buddy battle, with Jimmy Ford doing one heck of a job as BR.
As soon as I find a way to beat this slight bit of arthritis in the wrists and fingers, I will make good on my offer to get together with Randy Caputo and drum battle with him personally…and I’ll let him win!
Randy, you’re all right. God bless and keep swingin’
Bruce Klauber, September, 2006