Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Joy of Jazz - A Discovery

Though when I write about music it is mostly the classical my tastes do run a little beyond the vocal and orchestral works of Mozart, Beethoven and (lately) Mahler. I also have a fondness for folk, some country, Broadway (duh! quel surprise!) and jazz. Now I will admit that where classical music is concerned I always favoured vocal musical. For a long while I was in the habit of say: What's the point of an orchestra if there isn't a singer in front of it? - but I have become increasingly enamored of instrumental as well. Strangely with Jazz I have always enjoyed both the instrumental and the vocal though aside from Jacques Lussier I've never been able to get my ears around progressive jazz.

And I am partial to the older jazz performers - though the only greats I can claim to have seen live are Ella (twice) and Mel! This is why an article in the New York Times and two of their interactive features caught my eye late last week. The Savory Collection, a trove of discs - around 980 - have been found of "off the radio" performances by the early names in the field: Cab Calloway, Ella, Billie Holliday, Bobby Hackett, Benny Goodman, Lester Young - they are all there and all in their prime. They were recorded, mostly on aluminum discs, by the rather secretive William Savory (right) and though stories of their existence have circulated for a long time they have only come to light recently.

This long lost treasure chest has been deposited with the Jazz Museum in Harlem and they are working with sound Engineer Doug Pomeroy to restore as many as they can. In quoting the director of the museum the NYT reports that: Mr. (Loren) Schoenberg estimates that “25 percent are in excellent shape,” he said, “half are compromised but salvageable, and 25 percent are in really bad condition,” of which perhaps 5 percent are “in such a state that they will tolerate only one play” before starting to flake.

It a mammoth project but the results are worth it for the light that these performances shed on how and what these artists did outside the limited scope of the recording studio.

There are some remarkable examples on the NYT website including these audio samples - it includes the chance to compare Cab Calloway's China Boy as the disc sounded before and after remastering. And they've also included a video report on the finding, acquisition and remastering of this remarkable historic records.

31 agosto - San Raimondo Nonnato



now THAT'S music..

Doralong said...

Cab Calloway was a genius. Just listen to Minnie the Moocher...