Rhythm Man: Chick Webb and the Beat that Changed America - Newark Public Library

Rhythm Man: Chick Webb and the Beat that Changed America

Please join the Institute of Jazz Studies and Newark Public Library on January 23rd at 6:30 p.m. for an engrossing book talk at the James Brown African American Room by jazz historian Stephanie Stein Crease featuring live percussion examples performed by three-time GRAMMY winner Ulysses Owens Jr.

In Rhythm Man: Chick Webb and the Beat that Changed America (published by Oxford University Press in April 2023), Crease provides an engrossing life and times story of William Henry “Chick” Webb (1905-39). One of the first virtuoso drummers in jazz and an innovative bandleader dubbed the “Savoy King,” Webb reigned at Harlem’s world-famous Savoy Ballroom and helped launch the Swing era of the 1930s. Drawing from previously unpublished material, including Institute of Jazz Studies holdings, and years of archival research, Crease paints a nuanced portrait of Webb’s life, from his early life in Baltimore, to top bandleader in Harlem during the Great Depression, and to national fame as Swing and big band music swept the nation.

Along the way, Webb intersected with almost every important jazz musician of his generation—including Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Louis Armstrong—and helped launch the careers of such legends as Louis Jordan and Ella Fitzgerald. But, as Crease details, Webb also struggled with the harsh realities of racism and show business, in addition to a chronic spinal tuberculosis that contributed to his death at the young age of 34.

Following the presentation, books will be available for Crease to sign thanks to Newark’s Source of Knowledge bookstore.

Location: Newark Public Library, James Brown African American Reading Room (second floor), 5 Washington St., Newark, NJ

Sponsors: The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Institute of Jazz Studies, The Newark Public Library’s James Brown African American Room, Clement’s Place, Rutgers University-Newark, and Rutgers University Libraries