SIFF 2012: The Savoy King ***

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on June 9, 2012)

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I’m glad I caught Jeff Kaufman’s The Savoy King: Chick Webb and the Music That Changed America, because I learned quite a bit about a period of American music that I’m a bit rusty on-the Jazz Swing Era. Specifically, the story of a diminutive, hunch-backed drummer named Chick Webb, and the impact he made over the course of his relatively brief career (1927-1939). Crippled by TB of the spine (the result of a childhood injury), the self-taught drummer and band leader was not only a significant and respected player in his own right, but instrumental in fostering the career of one Ella Fitzgerald. With all due respect to the late Dick Clark, it turns out that his role in integrating America’s dance floors, while of significance, may have been overstated; it seems Webb was the true pioneer in that arena, thanks to the cross-cultural appeal of his music (years before American Bandstand). The archival footage is fabulous.

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