Monday, May 2, 2011

Chick Webb and his Orchestra- When America was Swinging.

Chick Webb was considered one of the giants of swing back in the late 20’s & 30’s. His music was very upbeat and fun for its time. Some blushed (the older generation) at this type of music with strong thumping and kids dancing with their partner in the most un-lady like ways. Why, was this devils music? If it was the devils music, he sure has good taste!

Chick was mentored by Duke Ellington, toured with Louis Armstrong, argued with Jelly Roll Morton, jammed with Artie Shaw, married a beautiful dancer, discovered and practically adopted Ella Fitzgerald, beat Benny Goodman and Count Basie in legendary battle of the bands.

The Savoy Ballroom was the home of the amazing Lindy Hop dancers, and the first venue in America where Blacks and Whites could dance and socialize together. The Savoy opened in 1926 and was an almost instant sensation. It was enormous – two stories high, with a ballroom that spanned almost an entire city block. It comfortably held over 4,000 dancers, while on one jam-packed occasion it was reported that over 15,000 fans crowded in. There were two bandstands, one that could hold a full dance band and another one for smaller groups. Chick Webb and his orchestra became the main house band. Born fatherless and poor, Chick Webb broke his back, developed spinal tuberculosis, and was a hunchbacked dwarf in constant pain, yet he virtually invented modern drumming and built the hottest band of the 1930s (it was the Savoy Ballroom’s “house band”).

Passing away at the young age of 30, Chick’s brief, inspiring life illuminates the society-changing power of music and the ability of everyone (with or without disabilities) to reach beyond their apparent limits.

The Savoy’s existence was all too short, just like Chick Webb’s band. Its heyday ended in the 1940s along with so many other famed big-band venues. The Savoy persevered with bebop and more dance contests but by 1958 it fell victim to changing tastes and urban renewal. The block was torn down and replaced with an apartment complex. For decades there was nothing to remind passersby of the history that took place between 140th and 141st Streets. Finally, a renewed interest in Harlem’s history led the apartment complex to be renamed Savoy Park, and a commemorative plaque was put up. The name also lives on in many other ballrooms around the United States, Britain, and Australia, and in dozens of dance steps and songs still being performed.

If you can find Chick Webb and his Orchestra- “Stomping at the Savoy” I strongly recommend this 4 cd set. It will keep you swinging with its driving beats and songs that make you feel like you stepped back in time.


Tribal Gothic said...

Loved this - Thanks for posting ;)

High Arka said...

I enjoyed it thoroughly also, and thank you for the recommendation. It helped, briefly, make up for the dearth of lounge music. The only problem was in trying to digest a 4 CD collection too fast--rather like eating four cakes at a sitting. If you get it, give yourself a break between discs.

Related Posts with Thumbnails