This report was broadcast by BBC World Service radio on August 30, 2010.
It’s been a bumper year of unexpected discoveries for jazz fans: last August the Newport festival archives were made available online, then in February, Eugene Smith’s jazz loft recordings shed new light on what happened after hours in the 1950s New York of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Zoot Sims.
The Savory Collection, recently acquired by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, takes us two decades further back, to the golden age of big band swing. Sound engineer William Savory recorded hundreds of radio broadcasts featuring Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and Louis Armstrong, among others, onto lacquered aluminium discs that were, at the time, the state of the art.
Savory released only a tiny selection and rarely played them to anyone. As a result, his collection became something of a holy grail for jazz connoisseurs. No-one even knew what it contained, until – as Andrew Purcell reports – the director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, Loren Schoenberg, finally got his hands on it.
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