The quest for the holy grail—it’s a narrative that jazz fans love. That lost or elusive recording, whether it’s an acetate, a rare 78, or even the cylinder that New Orleans jazz legend Buddy Bolden supposedly made, can keep collectors, scholars and others searching for years or often decades.
For jazz artist and National Jazz Museum in Harlem director Loren Schoenberg, a 30-year quest came to an end even more exciting than he’d dreamed of, when he acquired a collection of swing-era radio broadcasts for the museum. The recordings, made by an engineer and jazz fan named Bill Savory, offer hours and hours of jazz greats such as Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Lester Young and others performing, often captured in excellent audio fidelity. For jazz buffs, it’s a chance to hear all manner of detail and nuance emerging in a way that may change how we look at jazz history; for anybody who simply enjoys the music made by some of America’s finest artists, it’s a delight to have even more of it come to light.
Schoenberg joins us this week to talk about the Savory collection and to play some excerpts that haven’t been heard on the radio since Bill Savory recorded them. Artists featured on the program include Mildred Bailey, Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, Benny Goodman, Bunny Berigan, Chu Berry, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Bobby Hackett, Earl Hines, Django Reinhardt (performing with Ellington at Carnegie Hall in 1946), Louis Jordan, John Kirby, Joe Mooney, Red Norvo, Artie Shaw, Dave Tough, Tommy Dorsey, and Bud Freeman.
- The Savory Collection (National Jazz Museum in Harlem)
- Savory Saved (New York Times)
- The Secret of the Savory Collection (WNYC)
- A Trove of Historic Jazz Recordings Has Found a Home in Harlem, But You Can’t Hear Them (ABA Journal)
Special thanks to Loren Schoenberg.