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New Jazz Gems: Basie to Billie

Jazz from the vaults of history. We’ve got samples of the “Savory” recordings, unearthed gems from the 1930’s.

Count Basie’s all-African American band at Carnegie Hall, Dec. 23, 1938. (AP)

Bill Savory was a college dropout radio tech in New York in the late 1930s who liked to record what he heard on the radio. And what he heard in those days was some of the greatest live jazz in history.

The greats of the Swing Jazz era – Ella Fitzgerald, Teddy Wilson, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, on and on – at the height of their powers.  Bill Savory made nearly a thousand recordings on acetate and aluminum discs.  And hid them away.

Now, they’re out, in the light of day, and pretty amazing.

-Tom Ashbrook


Loren Schoenberg, jazz musician and historian, is executive director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, and author of “The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Jazz.” He acquired the Savory Collection for the National Jazz Museum.

Michael Cogswell, director of the Louis Armstrong House & Archives.

Hear some samples of the Savory recordings, courtesy of the National Jazz Museum:

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Avec Frites

    I hope you provide some historical background on the times, and don’t just laud the performers. I’d like to hear about the clubs, the economics, and the surrounding popular culture that accompanied the music.

    I’m looking forward to it, thanks.

  • John Paul Skilbeck

    Greetings Tom
    I am listening on XM Radio in Pittsburgh and grateful for the discussion of this wonderful find. How about a show in the future about the process of restoration and re-mastering of music like this. Us geeks would love to learn something about how it’s done and the technical and aesthetic considerations.

    Again, thanks.

  • Chip Harbour

    More! Must have more!!!!!

  • mike horan

    What was the bumper music at about 9:00??

  • Mike Horan

    Actually On Point is on here in the evening.. I am referring to the bumper music after the jazz segment..thanks~

  • http://onpointradio.org Jay Popa

    Thanks for sharing these with us. Please sell online, in addition to in museum.

    Any Billie Holiday with Artie Shaw orchestra? Shaw said he always heard there were some in existence but never located any of them.

  • david reese

    This program raises the question: Why did swing and jazz cease being the dominant popular music?

  • Jay Peterson

    This is an magnificent treasure, and you present it well. I live in Eastern Maine, where we can’t pick up WBUR or any other Boston radio except on the internet. What are the odds of contacting Maine Public Broadcasting to have this run up here? Hats off to you for a wonderful project.

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