New Live Music: Papa Jo Jones with Count Basie (1938-40)

The release of Savory Collection Vol. 2 has all the elements of my favorite jazz discoveries. At first blush we have 22 first time releases of Count Basie’s big band (1938-1940) with the exemplary rhythm section of Count Basie (piano), Freddie Green (guitar), Walter Page (bass), and Papa Jo Jones (drums).

These are live radio broadcasts preserved on aluminum discs by Bill Savory. His is a new name to me. But from what I’ve read of Mr. Savory in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and The Jazz Museum in Harlem — he was a brilliant, audio engineer with a love for great jazz. I look forward to learning more about him.

Most of Bill Savory’s recordings were kept private for 60 years — and were almost lost through neglect. Savory’s son sold the bulk of his father’s recordings to Founding Director and Senior Scholar Loren Schoenberg of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.


Bill Savory (Courtesy New York Times)

According to the NYT, “Because of deterioration, converting the 975 surviving discs to digital form and making them playable is a challenge. Mr. 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.”

That’s another concern of mine, especially for existing audio and/or video interviews with great drummers. What’s going to happen to those archives when the interviewers are gone?

I look foward to hearing this music and learning more about Bill Avory, and also, the yeoman’s work by audio engineer Doug Pomeroy in restoring this music.

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