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"Swing is here to stay." That was the verdict handed down last night by Harlem's Chick Webb, whose orchestra is currently at Levaggi's uptown Flamingo Room, and Ella Fitzgerald, his nineteen year old vocalist.
Chick holds a unique position, for in addition to being the leader of the band and also a top-ranking drummer, he is Ella Fitzgerald's legal guardian. He assumed this responsibility four years ago when, in search of a vocalist for his band, he happened to hear Ella at a Harlem amateur show. Within a few days he had signed papers releasing her from a Brookyn orphan asylum and making her his own ward.
Attributes Success to Ella Fitzgorald
That incident marked the beginning of the band's rise to recognition. "Breaks count a lot in this game," Webb put it. "Some of the best bands going are ones that you never hear about, just because they haven't had the breaks."
And Chick should be an authority on this subject. For years, even the presence in the band of such outstanding musicians as Sandy Williams, the trombone player, and Bobby Stark, rated with swing's finest trumpeters, did not achieve recognition for him. His present success he attributes largely to the discovery of Ella Fitzgerald.
If Ella Fitzgerald thinks it's great to be famous, however, she certainly doesn't show it. She talks about Boston, which she says is a "fine city--just like home to me", or about Bessie Smith, whom she calls the "finest blues singer that ever lived," but about herself she has little to say.
Says Swing Can't Be Defined
Asked whether the college "cats" who have been seen flocking around the bandstand every night really know anything about swing she replied, "I really couldn't say, but they sure do enjoy it."
Like many of the leading exponents of swing, she was at a loss to define her art, but Chick came to her rescue. "You can't define swing," he said, "it's something that you feel. You go into a night club, and at first you want the band to play nice and slow. Then you put away a couple of drinks, and you start feeling pretty good, and you want band to get hot and you want to go out there and Suzy-Q and Truck and help the band along. "That's swing."
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