Acclaimed pianist Quinn Johnson has worked with a host of performers who are world-famous. While Johnson has released a new album in 2017, his 2016 version of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” is an essential piece of instrumental jazz. It continues the song’s unofficial purpose as a celebration of the human spirit.
“Stompin’ at the Savoy”: a brief history
The idea of “The Savoy” exists in a few different ways. First, there is the ballroom in New York City that inspired the original jazz song; second, there is the 1934 jazz song written by Edgar Sampson, and last, “Stompin’ at the Savoy” is a 1992 movie starring Lynn Whitfield, Jasmine Guy and Vanessa Williams. The three women have dreams they must bring to life in 1930s Harlem.
In addition, “Stompin’ at the Savoy” was arguably made most popular by the 1950s vocal jazz version by Ella Fitzgerald and featuring Louis Armstrong.
There is an essence of freedom and uplift that accompanies the idea of The Savoy. It seems right that the song exists as a jazz classic. Those wishing to be jazz aficionados, or just curious about the song, would do well to listen to as many versions of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” as possible. That is what I did when I found Johnson’s take on the classic.
About Quinn Johnson
In Johnson’s career, he has played with the likes of Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Martin Short, Wayne Brady, Christopher Cross and others.
Johnson is also a member of a Clare Fisher band, one of versions earned a 2013 Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album. On his own, Johnson composes, arranges and produces songs across genres. In addition, the pianist’s own work exists on different record labels. Further, Johnson’s compositions have been featured on the show, “Homeland.”
With the pianist’s history of performing and creating music with some of the most talented people in the world, Johnson’s treatment of a jazz classic such as “Stompin’ at the Savoy” doesn’t come as a surprise.
However, the way Johnson manages to infuse “Stompin’ at the Savoy” with Afro-Cuban elements, makes the Great American Songbook a bit more diverse.
“Stompin’ at the Savoy” by Quinn Johnson Trio
Piano notes come tripping gleefully into the soundscape to open the song. They are followed by drums clattering into a Latin rhythm, and listeners can imagine dancers twirling with abandon. The pace in Johnson’s version is a touch slower than some of the earlier versions, but it isn’t slow, and it actually is comprised of different rhythms.
For most of the song, it sounds as though the piano and drums are taking over the soundscape. But then, a bass showcase offers some texture, and a Latin-sounding piano motif explodes into the sonic celebration. At one point, it sounds as if the keys are shimmering.
The drums get heavy at the end, and they signal that the party offered by the song is over. Still, “Stompin’ at the Savoy” as performed by Quinn Johnson Trio is an unforgettable treat. A must-listen for jazz fans.