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Savory Collection Has Jazz Fans Licking Their Chops

Among the highlights of Bill Savory's collection is Billie Holiday's spare performance of "Strange Fruit," one of her signature songs. William P. Gottlieb hide caption

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William P. Gottlieb

Among the highlights of Bill Savory's collection is Billie Holiday's spare performance of "Strange Fruit," one of her signature songs.

William P. Gottlieb

If you missed the Big Jazz News Of The Week, Tom Vitale put together a nice summary of the Savory collection acquisition for today's All Things Considered. Among the takeaways of this massive find:

  • A fellow named Bill Savory recorded about 100 hours' worth of jazz from radio broadcasts during the late 1930s.
  • That is when giants like Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Fats Waller, etc. were slaying nightly.
  • These were live performances. Live! So we get the best of the best ripping out on the town — not the sometimes-sterile studio, nor the three-minute time limit imposed by 78 RPM records.
  • Savory had access to state-of-the-art studio equipment. Thus, the sound quality = not bad at all!
  • Copyright issues may impede commercial releases of this stuff, and a lot of the discs are in bad condition. But all experts agree: Whatever the National Jazz Museum in Harlem can salvage will still be an absolute goldmine.

The National Jazz Museum has a page up dedicated to their acquisition, where you can hear short audio samples. We must also commend The New York Times here, who got completely on top of this story early and often. Here's their massive feature story by Larry Rohter, and the multimedia interactive they created to go along with it (i.e., hear audio clips), and also a video piece on restoring the acetates. Then Ben Ratliff marvels at the live version of Coleman Hawkins' "Body And Soul," and we even get a follow-up ArtsBeat blog post. Yessir.