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Rhythm Man

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Album Review

Along with units led by Fletcher Henderson and Luis Russell, Chick Webb's big band of the early '30s cut some of the smartest and most galvanizing swing of the era. Webb, of course, is best known for chaperoning Ella Fitzgerald's first stretch of stardom, but his instrumental work is not to be missed, especially considering a wealth of progressive charts by alto saxophonist Edgar Sampson and a lineup that included some of the hottest soloists around. Along with standouts like "Stompin' at the Savoy" and Benny Carter's "Blue in My Heart" (Carter plays alto while trumpeter Louis Bacon provides the dulcet vocals), the disc features several treats, ranging from Sampson's excellent instrumental "Blue Minor" to several Taft Jordan vocal turns, like "That Rhythm Man." Topped off with Webb's own drum-kit alchemy, John R.T. Davies' excellent transfers, and solo nuggets from the unsung likes of trombonist Jimmy Harrison, trumpeter Bobby Stark, and saxophonist Hilton Jefferson, this Hep sampler of Webb's best sides qualifies as first-tier listening for big band epicures.


Born: 10 February 1909 in Baltimore, MD

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s

Chick Webb represented the triumph of the human spirit in jazz and life. Hunchbacked, small in stature, almost a dwarf with a large face and broad shoulders, Webb fought off congenital tuberculosis of the spine in order to become one of the most competitive drummers and bandleaders of the big band era. Perched high upon a platform, he used custom-made pedals, goose-neck cymbal holders, a 28-inch bass drum and a wide variety of other percussion instruments to create thundering solos of a complexity...
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Rhythm Man, Chick Webb
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