Savoy Sultans

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The Savoy Sultans was the name of two related jazz ensembles in the twentieth century.

Savoy Sultans (1937-46)[edit]

The original Savoy Sultans were formed by saxophonist Al Cooper, and played at the Savoy Ballroom from 1937 to 1946.[1] This small swing jazz ensemble was comprised, at various times, Jack Chapman, Sam Massenberg, Jesse Drakes and Pat Jenkins on trumpets; Skinny Brown, Rudy Williams, Ed McNeil, Lennie Simmons, Thomas Turrentine Sr. and George Kelly on saxophones; Cyril Haynes, piano; Grachan Moncur II on double bass; Alex "Razz" Mitchell on drums and vocalist Evelyn White.

Opening at the famous Savoy Ballroom on Lenox Avenue, Harlem, on Labor Day 1937,[2] they recorded seven times with Decca Records between 1938 and 1941. According to one reviewer,[3] their recorded legacy leaves much to be desired although contemporary reports by musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie gave the group high praise.[2]

Savoy Sultans (1974-early 1990s)[edit]

The name Savoy Sultans was resurrected by Panama Francis in 1974 for a one-off concert, and was turned into a regular ensemble in 1979. He maintained the same instrumentation but added rhythm guitar. This group recorded for Black & Blue Records in 1979 and again with Stash Records in 1982-83. Members included Francis Williams, Irv Stokes, Spanky Davis, Norris Turney, Howard E. Johnson, Bobby Watson, and Red Richards. George Kelly reprised his role in this later ensemble as well.