Hines is fierce, 'The Savoy King,' Phoebe Jacobs tribute

Ron Scott | 5/16/2012, 5:35 p.m.

Ironically, the film was shown 75 years to the date from when the Benny Goodman Band challenged Webb to the famous "Battle of the Bands" at the Savoy. Webb's in-house band for the Savoy was declared the winner, so why is Goodman still remembered as the "King of Swing"?

The documentary portrays an important part of jazz history and Black culture and features interviews with Harlemites such as Gertrude Jeannette, actress and original member of the American Negro Theater; the late Dr. Muriel Petioni; John Isaacs, member of the legendary 1939 world basketball championship the Harlem Rens; and dancers Norma Miller, "the Queen of Swing" and a member of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, a team that called the Savoy home.

Ella Fitzgerald played a major role at the Savoy as the singer for Webb's big band, as did the great dancer and choreographer Frankie Manning. In the elite "Cat's Corner" there, Webb and partner Fredi Washington won a contest one year by creating the first "air step," also known as an "aerial," where Manning seemed to send Washington flying through the air.

Manning lived long enough to see his style of dancing fade away and then spring back to life. He was a cornerstone of that revival, both as a teacher and a dancer; he died at the age of 94 in 2009.

"The Savoy King" features the voices of an all-star cast, including Bill Cosby as Chick Webb, John Legend as Duke Ellington, Billy Crystal as Mezz Mezzrow, Danny Glover as Count Basie, Andy Garcia as Mario Bauza, Janet Jackson as Ella Fitzgerald and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Dizzy Gillespie, among others. Hopefully, this film will be picked up on television or the big screen.

The family of Phoebe Jacobs (June 21, 1918-April 9, 2012), the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation and Jazz at Lincoln Center will pay tribute to Jacobs at Rose Theater, Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on Thursday, May 24 at 1 p.m. There will be no printed tickets for this event. Doors will open at 12:30 p.m., and attendees will be seated on a first come, first served basis.

The tribute will feature the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis as well as Jimmy Heath, Jon Faddis, Lew Soloff, Mercedes Ellington, Bobby Sanabria, Antoinette Montague, Robert O'Meally, Victor Goines, Bob Stewart, Stanley Crouch, George Wein, Norma Miller, Brianna Thomas and more. Immediately following the program will be a second line procession along Central Park South.

Jacobs' life was devoted to the perpetuation of jazz through the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, for which she served as executive vice president. She was one of the most important behind-the-scenes influences in jazz. Her phenomenal work touched many lives, especially those of young people, through jazz education and outreach.

Jacobs was the smiling face you would see at all the major jazz events. She was always willing to have a good conversation about jazz or let you know about the latest at the Louis Armstrong Foundation. She will be truly missed.