“Nutville” Drum Transcription — Buddy Rich

Posted on May 19, 2024

 nutville summary

I’ve been on a bit of a big band kick lately after spending several weeks sifting through the ~200 big band charts I’ve collected over the years. And at long last, I’ve transcribed a Buddy Rich song: the tune “Nutville”, originally written by Horace Silver in 1966, and recorded by Buddy’s band for The Roar of ’74 album (you can probably figure out when that was released).

Here’s the thing: in a perfect world, Buddy Rich would be a goldmine for content, but in this world, I haven’t felt that motivated to pick him apart. His playing is always lacking something for me — it doesn’t have that spark I get with John Bonham, Steve Gadd, or Elvin Jones. To that end, I can immediately think of the vocabulary of those guys, but the only signature Buddy Rich lick that ever comes to mind is “singles as fast as possible on the snare.”

While I generally don’t like making an effort to enjoy things, I guess I decided that transcribing might help me pick up on something that I must be missing when listening to Buddy with a more casual mindset (as in, listening like a normal person). But to be perfectly honest, after all this work, much of his drumming still doesn’t leave an impression on me. A bad choice of song/recording perhaps. (Although “Nutville” is one of Buddy’s more enduring charts, which is why I picked it.)

I start the sheet music off with the shout chorus and drum solo around the 3:44 mark. “Nutville” is primarily a Latin number, and many of the ensemble figures are unsurprisingly various dotted 8th rhythms. Most of the licks in the transcription are pretty self–explanatory, but I’m guessing that shorter one–beat triplet fills are played as puh–duh–duhs (RLL).

One interesting thing I noticed is that Buddy stomps out quarter notes on the kick during some of his fills:

This is something I’ve always identified with Keith Moon. It’s an effective (albeit primitive) way of adding some harumph to your fills. 

The shout chorus climaxes with a swing feel — while “Nutville” is mainly a Latin arrangement, it does have brief moments of swing. It’s a gag that remains popular to this day for Latin charts (see: the arrangement of “Caravan” from the 90s that was used and abused for Whiplash). As expected, Buddy finishes the drum feature with big triplet singles.

I close out the rest of the recording, which goes back to the head, and then ends with an open drum solo. I wanted to show off some of Buddy’s timekeeping during the keyboard solo that proceeds the shout chorus, but I could barely differentiate the drums during this movement. That’s always a wildcard when tackling older records, and it was a big problem this week.

I considered using one of those AI stem generators (a.k.a. the only good thing AI is contributing to music), but they’re generally a pain to use and still don’t work super well — the results have lots of artifacts and aliasing. Again, I have to consider how much effort I want to put into dissecting a drummer who generally bores me. The latest Logic update actually added a stem splitting feature, but it requires a machine with an Apple Silicon chip to work, which I don’t have.

The timekeeping during the reprise of the head was a lot easier to make out. The bassline that drives “Nutville” is the tresilo rhythm, and Buddy plays a mambo–esque groove. To my surprise, he doesn’t play the toms much as he keeps time. 

I must admit, I am a fan of this little moment:

The reprise has another swing interlude (which is likely missing some details since I could barely hear anything), a big ensemble passage, and then the closing drum solo. Again, big singles as Buddy stomps quarters out on the kick — I generally have to agree with the criticism that Buddy was too much of a snare–oriented drummer. Nevertheless, I must highlight the brief linear change–up connecting these two lines:

Not something I would have expected from Buddy. 

Per usual, a big trashcan ending closes out the chart. 

I don’t want to come across as too dismissive of Buddy’s playing. I’m not doing all of this to be an iconoclast — as I said, I love Bonham as much as the next drummer, and that’s certainly not unique. But something just isn’t clicking here, and my score failed to elucidate anything for me. Maybe next time; there are plenty of Buddy Rich shout choruses out there… but if the mixing of this album is any indication, timekeeping will always be a headache to figure out.

One last thing: you may have noticed in the score that I switched back and forth between having the kick share the same voice as the hands and giving it its own separate rhythm. I’ve been critical of this engraving style in the past — staves take up more space vertically, and you might end up with a flurry of rests that won’t look nice if you’re using a program like MuseScore which can’t position things properly by default:

Still, when the kick is just keeping steady time, it could be the way to go. I might have to revisit all of my transcriptions now…

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It appears the streaming sites misspell this song as “Nuttville”, with an extra “t”. Someone really ought to fix that...

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