Thursday, December 23, 2010

Homage to the Savoy Ballroom Battle of the Bands

As one of the organizers of the new Southside Stomp! monthly dance in Hampton Roads I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to discuss the history of Lindy Hop.

As a result, I'm proud to say we'll be kicking off the inaugural Southside Stomp dance with a look back to a historic night in swing that happened almost exactly 72 years prior.

On January 16, 1938, just as Benny Goodman was wrapping up his famous Carnegie Hall concert, swing fans and dancers were racing uptown to catch an epic Swing event in New York’s Savoy Ballroom: the “Battle of the Bands” featuring the bandleaders, Chick Webb (with vocalist Ella Fitzgerald) and Count Basie (with vocalist Billie Holiday), playing head to head with the dancers deciding the winner.

What distinguished the two bands from one another was opposing sounds: Webb’s band was described as a “sensational whirlwind barrage,” that played at “breakneck tempos” and “novelty effects”; additionally Webb himself was a powerhouse behind the drums despite his limitations and short stature. Drumming legend Buddy Rich cites Webb’s powerful technique and virtuoso performances as heavily influential on his own drumming, and even referred to Webb as “the daddy of them all. The Basie Band’s swing, on the other hand, was more moderate and blues-oriented leading one spectator to describe the tone of the concert as “solid swing versus sensational swing.”

While fans of each band were quick to declare their favorites the winner most declared it a draw. You can read more about the famous contest here: Chick Webb Cuts Count Basie

You can also see video talking about Chick Webb's battle with Benny Goodman here.

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