“The Savoy King: Chick Webb & The Music That Changed America”
(Now in post-production …)
“If Chick Webb’s story had been a novel, filmmakers would have lined up to option it. Through genius and a fabled will, Chick became a true titan in American music. In telling this remarkable story of an indispensable man, Jeff Kaufman promises to make one of the great musical documentaries of our time.”
~ Music and film critic Gary Giddins
A feature documentary on Swing-era drummer-bandleader Chick Webb, Ella Fitzgerald, and Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. Produced in partnership with The New Heritage Theatre Group (New York’s oldest non-profit Black theater), The Savoy King weaves together newly filmed stories from remarkable people who knew Chick at every phase of his life, with quotes from some of the greatest figures in Jazz history. Bill Cosby is voicing the words of Chick Webb, Tyne Daly is the voice of Jazz publicist Helen Oakley Dance, Ron Perlman is Gene Krupa, Andy Garcia is Mario Bauzá, and Danny Glover is Count Basie.
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. It had a huge, but largely unheralded social impact. Born fatherless and poor, Chick Webb 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”).
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, befriended Mario Bauzá (“The Father of Afro-Cuban Jazz”), encouraged a struggling Dizzy Gillespie, and helmed the first Black band to host a national radio show . . . all before drumming himself to death at age 30.
We’ve been privileged to film with people who could each could warrant their own documentary. They include: drummers Louie Bellson and Roy Haynes, trumpeter Joe Wilder, playwright-actress Gertrude Jeannette, Swing dance masters Frankie Manning and Norma Miller, Harlem Rens basketball star John Issacs, composer-arranger Van Alexander, longtime Harlem physician Dr. Muriel Petioni, and childhood friend Rev. Edward Wilson, Ella’s son Ray Brown Jr., the son of the Savoy Ballroom’s owner Dr. Richard Gale, and Chick’s jazz-loving nephew Brad Rowe.
Chick’s brief, inspiring life illuminates the society-changing power of music, the life-lifting effect of mentoring, a hard-fought breakthrough in racial understanding that reverberates today in many ways, and the ability of everyone (with or without disabilities) to reach beyond their apparent limits.
TOPICS: Chick Webb
, Count Basie
, Duke Ellington
, Ella Fitzgerald
, Frankie Manning
, lindy hop
, NEWS & UPDATES
, News & Updates
, Norma Miller
, Savoy Ballroom
, The Savoy Ballroom
, The Savoy King
, Van Alexander