Born poor in Baltimore, Chick Webb broke his back as a boy and faced life as hunchback dwarf afflicted with Spinal Tuberculosis. Someone suggested drumming as a kind of physical therapy, and Webb found his calling: running off to New York at only 16, he built the hottest jazz orchestra in America, whose home base was Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom, one of the rare places in America where Blacks and Whites could socialize together.
The honor roll of artists discovered and mentored by Webb is extraordinary, but perhaps no star shines brighter than that of Ella Fitzgerald.
Featuring interviews with those who knew or played with Webb, great period footage, as well as a firm sense of social and cultural history, THE SAVOY KING is a meditation on the transformative power of art as well as a monument to a great American artist.
“The Savoy King, the story of Chick Webb, is an important contribution to our knowledge and our history. I highly recommend that those who have the opportunity see this film.” -—Harry Belafonte
The Savoy King will screen at The New York Film Festival Saturday, September 29 (noon), and Tuesday October 2 (3:30pm).
In addition, on Sept. 28, there will be a panel discussion with a dance to follow, music by the George Gee Swing Orchestra, at Dance Manhattan (www.dancemanhattan.com). 97-year-old (and still lively) Val Alexander has provided his original Chick Webb arrangement of Let’s Get Together.
On October 2 at noon, there will be a panel at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture as part of Harlem Arts Advocacy Week. Hosted by Voza Rivers (Director of the Harlem Arts Alliance), the panel will include: Dr. Richard Gale (son of Savoy Ballroom owner Moe Gale), playwright / actress Gertrude Jeannette, dancer Norma Miller, drummer Roy Haynes, and myself. Chick Webb’s nieces may also attend.
- A Dire Dance for the Dwyer Cultural Center in Harlem (harlemworldmag.com)