The Savoy King, James Cotton Blues
Ron Scott | 10/2/2012, 4:22 p.m.
This event is a part of Harlem Arts Advocacy Week.
On Sept. 28 at 8 p.m., a panel with a swing dance will follow with the George Gee Swing Orchestra and special guest vocalist Lainie Cooke. The panel will be hosted by Judy Pritchett and will include Gale, Miller and Kaufman. The panel and dance will take place at Dance Manhattan, 39 W. 19th St. For more information, call 212-807-0802.
The voices of the "Savoy King" is an all-star lineup that includes Sunpie Barnes as Barney Bigard, Bill Cosby as Chick Webb, Billy Crystal as Mezz Mezzrow, Tyne Daly as Helen Oakley Dance, Keith David as Charles Buchanan, Andy Garcia as Mario Bauza, Danny Glover as Count Basie, Jeff Goldblum as Artie Shaw, Janet Jackson as Ella Fitzgerald, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Dizzy Gillespie, Ron Perlman as Gene Krupa, Voza Rivers as Sandy Williams, Eugene Robinson as Teddy McRae, and Charlie Watts as Stanley Dance.
The Savoy was known for its "Battle of the Bands." On May 11, 1937, Benny Goodman went up against the great Webb and his orchestra. It was drummer against drummer with Webb and Gene Krupa. Of course, Webb's orchestra won and Krupa proved to be no match.
It seems at that point Goodman should have lost his crown as "King of Swing." After all, how could he have been anointed with such a title when Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson and Cab Calloway were on the scene? It seems they would have at least given the crown to Webb, but not being familiar with royal etiquette, I'm not sure how it works. Although it seems somewhat similar to Elvis Presley being crowned "King of Rock and Roll" with Little Richard, Bo Didley, Fats Domino and Jackie Wilson on the scene. Oh, don't forget James Brown, about whom Amiri Baraka wrote, "If Presley is King, then James Brown must be God."
However, this is quite another story. "The Savoy King" is well worth seeing. It is one of the most significant jazz documentaries to be made thus far. It is co-produced by Rivers and Kamal Joseph.