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Rhythm Man Stephanie Stein Crease (Independent scholar, Independent scholar)

Rhythm Man By Stephanie Stein Crease (Independent scholar, Independent scholar)


Rhythm Man: Chick Webb and the Beat that Changed America presents the first full-length biography of the Swing Era icon, restoring this pioneering virtuoso drummer and bandleader's primacy alongside other 20th century jazz giants.

Rhythm Man Summary

Rhythm Man: Chick Webb and the Beat that Changed America by Stephanie Stein Crease (Independent scholar, Independent scholar)

The first comprehensive biography of the Swing Era's pioneering virtuoso drummer and bandleader William Henry Chick Webb (1905-39) was one of the first virtuoso drummers in jazz and an innovative bandleader dubbed the Savoy King, who reigned at Harlem's world-famous Savoy Ballroom. Along with the likes of Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, and Cab Calloway, Webb helped create the popular dance and music culture, known as Swing, that swept the United States during and after the Great Depression and left an indelible impact on American culture. Having moved to Harlem from Baltimore during the Harlem Renaissance, Webb's creativity, charisma and persistence enabled him to navigate the harsh realities of racism and show business, lifting not only himself to stardom but also bringing other future legends-namely vocalist extraordinaire Ella Fitzgerald and R&B trailblazer Louis Jordan-along with him. But at the peak of his fame, at just 34 years of age, his life was cut short by the chronic spinal tuberculosis that had left him four feet tall with a hump on his back. In this first comprehensive biography of Webb, author Stephanie Stein Crease traces his story in full, showing how his skills and innovations as a bandleader helped catalyze the music of the Swing Era and the growing big band industry, allowing Webb to become one of the most influential musicians in jazz history. Crease explores Webb's personal and professional struggles as he rose to the top of the increasingly competitive world of big band jazz. Complete with rare photographs, posters, news clippings, and a discography, this biography will be a gift to jazz aficionados and scholars.

Rhythm Man Reviews

This propulsive biography places the drummer and bandleader Chick Webb at the epicenter of the early Swing Era. * The New Yorker *
Chick Webb now has a first-rate biography-long overdue but effectively filling a gap in jazz scholarship. * Ted Gioia, The Honest Broker *
Essential... Crease's book is an expertly narrated story of Webb's life, detailing his career within the Black music world of the 1920's and 30s, presenting a nuanced, rounded portrait of the master drummer. * Vinnie Sperrazza, Chronicles *
Rhythm Man is a surprisingly comprehensive book on Chick Webb that will hopefully restore his important place in history. * Scott Yanow, LA Jazz Scene *
Nothing comes close to the easy yet majestic sweep of this book....Page after page of Rhythm Man blossoms with new stories. * Michael Steinman, Jazz Lives *
Thanks to Stephanie Stein Crease's new biography of virtuoso drummer Chick Webb, the Baltimore-born band leader and popular music legend, we now have a detailed and nuanced picture of his amazing life. * Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun *
Stephanie Stein Crease, author of a previous biography of another elusive but crucial figure in jazz history, the arranger and bandleader Gil Evans, has finally given us a much-needed cradle-to-grave narrative of this most essential of all jazz drummers. * Will Friedwald, The New York Sun *
A sympathetic, extensively researched biography of an often-neglected swing-era pioneer that jazz fans will find compelling. * Dr. Dave Szatmary, Library Journal *
The jazz biography of the year! A clear, fast-paced tracking of the rise of virtuoso drummer and bandleader William Chick Webb, Crease mobilizes exciting new archival research to reveal the rich cultural history of Black Baltimore and of Harlem itselfDLwhen jazz was in vogue up and down the streets of Upper Manhattan and then all over the globe...This critical biography dives deep, offering surprise after surprise. Crease offers fresh vignettes of Webb's fellow jazz-star Baltimoreans Blanche and Cab Calloway, Eubie Blake, and Billie Holiday. And we learn how a physically challenged man, hump-backed and standing four feet tall, could drive an all-star orchestra from his brightly lit drumkit throne, make a city-block size ballroom bounce under thousands of dancers' feet, and still play his role as the family man who supported relatives and friends... * Robert G. O'Meally, author of Antagonistic Cooperation: Jazz Collage, Fiction and the Shaping of African American Culture *
Like Andrew Delbanco's work on Melville, Stephanie Stein Crease's Rhythm Man is sweeping, probing cultural history not to be mistaken for mere biography. Missing nothing worth knowing, Crease explores the whole world around the drummer and bandleader Chick WebbDLthe world that made him and the world he remade with his still dazzling, still under-appreciated musical art. * David Hajdu, author of Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn and Love for Sale: Pop Music in America *
Chick Webb is arguably the greatest of big band drummers because he was an incredible technician, orchestrator, and bandleader; he created the template for what came after him. However, there is so little written about him in totality, and the passion and love that Stephanie Crease pours into this book will allow it to become the missing link to understanding the magnitude of Chick's contribution to the world of jazz big band drumming and beyond. Thanks to this book, we get to understand how and why Chick Webb was one of the greatest to ever play a drum set in the configuration of a big band, which is foundational to the creation of jazz music. * Ulysses Owens Jr., Grammy Award-winning jazz drummer, educator, creative entrepreneur *
Though he was one of the true kings of the Swing Era, drummer and bandleader Chick Webb has never properly received his due. That wrong has definitively been righted thanks to the groundbreaking research uncovered in Stephanie Crease's Rhythm Man. In addition to being a world-class researcher, Crease is an expert storyteller with the uncanny ability to make worlds come alive, smartly relying on the words of those who were there to help tell the story. In the process, readers will be transported from the streets of Baltimore to the battles at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem and all places in between, all in incredible detail like no previous telling of Webb's story. This is a major work and exactly what Webb deserves. * Ricky Riccardi, Director of Research Collections at the Louis Armstrong House Museum and Grammy Award-winning author of Heart Full of Rhythm: The Big Band Years of Louis Armstrong *
Fiction couldn't have created a better hero than Chick Webb, and Stephanie Crease is the writer to tell the tale. A Black artist with a disability, in constant pain, Webb let nothing stop his momentumDLthe modernization of jazz drumming. Deeply researched and lovingly told, Crease places Webb at the center of American popular culture of the Swing Era. A fascinating read. * Linda Dahl, author of Morning Glory: A biography of Mary Lou Williams and An Upside-Down Sky *
Jazz, above all, is about rhythm, and in this unique biography, Stephanie Crease has taken the time and pulse of Chick Webb's short but impactful life and made it swing. She is to biographers what Webb was to drummersDLa shining light! * Loren Schoenberg, Senior Scholar and Founding Director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem *

About Stephanie Stein Crease (Independent scholar, Independent scholar)

Stephanie Stein Crease is a jazz historian, author, editor, and former Senior Jazz Coordinator for the Jazz Arts Program, Manhattan School of Music. Her books include Gil Evans: Out of the Cool (2002 ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award), and Duke Ellington: His Life in Jazz (2009). She was literary editor for the Grammy-awarded Duke Ellington Centennial Edition. She was a 2020 Scholar-in Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NYPL, and 2018 Berger-Benny Carter-Berger Research Fellow at the Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents Foreword Acknowledgements Introduction 1. Baltimore Beginnings 2. Baltimoreans in the Music World 3. Scuffling in Heaven 4. A Bandleader's Beginnings 5. Savoy: The World's Finest Ballroom 6. Harlem Stompers 7. Former Baltimore Newspaper Boy 8. Ol' Man Depression 9. On the Road with Louis 10. A Bandleader's Rise 11. Showtime in the Theater Wars 12. Spinnin' the Webb 13. Sing Me a Swing Song 14. Chasin' the Blues Away 15. Jumping the Fence 16. Vote for Mr. Rhythm 17. Battling It Out in Swingtime 18. The Last Grooves 19. Have Mercy Epilogue Notes Sources Bibliography Selected Discography Index

Additional information

Rhythm Man: Chick Webb and the Beat that Changed America by Stephanie Stein Crease (Independent scholar, Independent scholar)
Oxford University Press Inc
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