Imagine listening from your fire escape on a stifling summer evening, dreaming about what it was like inside 596 Lenox Avenue. Maybe you scraped together the entry fee — anywhere from 35 to 85 cents, depending on the night — and found yourself on the staircase to the second floor, pulled upstairs by the whoosh of sound. The pink walls. Bouncers in tuxedos. And a floor that sprung to thousands of feet.
It's all gone. But the music that was the root of everything magical and life-affirming at The Savoy Ballroom — the music of Chick Webb featuring his discovery, Ella Fitzgerald — is still here and utterly glorious.
Mosaic Records' new release, The Complete Chick Webb & Ella Fitzgerald Decca Sessions (1934-1941) is the most complete collection ever of this incredibly important collaboration between the man who was the first "voice" on drums and the unassuming teenage girl who would blossom into the most revered vocalist in music.
Too easily and too often, music of the swing era is disregarded as being "for dancers." Chick and Ella made sure it was for listeners as well. But what's more, Chick's decision to take his unheard-of power, and his orchestra's great musicianship, and lay it all at the feet of a masterful vocalist, made sure his music would be for the ages.
We've gone back and sourced the best quality master or physical item obtainable, whether that be from mint 78s to vinyl test pressings. Liner notes are by John McDonough and Mosaic's exclusive booklet includes many rarely-seen photographs.You'll never get closer to the wonder that was The Savoy Ballroom than this set. But as always, our release is strictly limited. Please order yours so that you don't miss out.
Box sets are always a winner during the holidays. Music lovers will be overjoyed to unwrap these sweet sets and special CD packages this season.
For listeners interested in Depression Era jazz history, The Complete Chick Webb And Ella Fitzgerald Decca Sessions (1934–1941) (Mosaic Records) is a fascinating box set. It documents the musical relationship of the legendary drummer and vocalist from 1935 until Webb’s untimely death in 1939 at age 37. Webb was already the reigning king of Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom when he discovered the 17-year-old Fitzgerald in 1934 after she won the Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater. They would go on to record hits like “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” and other swing-era gems like Hoagy Carmichael’s “Sing Me A Swing Song,” both documented here. In addition to the main Decca tracks that Webb and Fitzgerald recorded together, the Mosaic box also includes Webb’s pre-Fitzgerald sides on the Vocalion and Brunswick labels as well as recordings Fitzgerald made with Webb’s band after his death.
The eight-CD set brings together 187 tracks (three previously unissued), with extensive liner notes by DownBeat Senior Contributor John McDonough. The package includes rare photographs as well as notes on each track and recording session, with special insight from arranger Van Alexander, the last surviving member of the sessions. DB