Review by Brad Walseth
Donny Osborne was a Chicago native and child prodigy on the drums, the son of the president of Slingerland Drums in the '70s, who was advertised as Buddy Richs protege as a teen, and who played with Steve Allen, before becoming Mel Torme's personal drummer for 24 years. Osborne, who was recently featured in Classic Drummer Magazine, now lives in the Pacific Northwest and is still playing in the traditional big band style pioneered by people like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. He recently released his first recording as a leader, "Live at Tony Starlight's," recorded at that Portland jazz venue with some of that city's finest players.
The recording is a bit rough, with audible talking and abrupt stops between tracks, but seems to accurately portray a gig at this retro cabaret. Pete Peterson provides the tenor sax, while guitarists Neal Grandstaff and Eli Reisman anchor the harmonic content. Osborne is aided in the rhythm by bassist Al Criado and percussionist Caton Lyles. The song choices range from straight ahead small combo jazz like "All Blues" and "Just Friends," and "Billie's Bounce" to big band "Cotton Tail," funk (the Meters') "Cissy Strut," vocal (a swinging "The Lady is a Tramp" with Tony Starlight on vocals) and calypso (Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas"), which showcases Osborne's impressive technique on an extended solo that nearly catches fire and burns the place down.
Through it all, Osborne's Buddy Rich-inspired playing is the centerpiece. Fans of classic drum styles will find much to cheer about in his precise rhythmic playing and exciting solos, but jazz fans in general may also enjoy listening to a pleasant live set featuring a band drum style that has pretty much been lost to the ages.
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