Since the I.A.J.R.C. has folded its tents and stopped publishing its quarterly journal, I no longer have an outlet for my jazz writings, so I’ll post reviews and comments in this web site along with my “Backward Glances” columns. Enjoy.
THE SAVORY COLLECTION: 1935-1940 Mosaic 266 (six CD’s)
Bill Savory was one of those behind-the-scenes guys in thirties and forties recording and broadcasting, with much of his work being remote broadcasts from clubs and radio studios. NOT air-shots off someone’s radio speaker, he effectively recorded off telephone lines to 16” discs in a radio studio. He is best known for the fantastically well-preserved Benny Goodman show from Carnegie Hall in 1938 which were done (as I understand it) specifically at Benny’s request. Savory’s recordings of jazz interest, mainly unreleased commercially, were know about by the true jazz cognoscenti. More recently, after his death, they were donated to the National Jazz Museum in Harlem who worked an arrangement with Mosaic Records to issue an important chunk of the material as historically significant. NO SHIT!!
While these recordings have been known to exist by serious jazz scholars and aficionados for decades, if only by reputation, they have basically been unreleased until now. The originals were standard direct-to-16” disc master recordings common at the time that were preserved reasonably well over the decades. 21st Century technology has now digitized the music as well as is possible today and that generally has resulted in magnificent, clear sound. Whitney Balliett might have referred to this collection on review as “More Dinosaurs in the Morning” were he still with us!
Below I’ll list all the leaders, but I’ll comment on the specific music only in my text here. This is a half-decade time period when jazz was taking over the popular music world with the big bands; Basie’s is the most represented here at a perfect time in its development! The small groups here are mainly gatherings of band musicians, usually racially integrated, playing for themselves and their radio audience. Fats Waller, for example, had his usual “Rhythm” as backing, as well as taking part in Condon jam sessions. Beautiful and important music captured as it was being created, often “on-the-fly”! It is music of the era being played directly for its audience and not via the more filtered and constrained three-minute commercial recording session product, the 78. It was generally “live” radio broadcasts either from clubs or radio studios where the music lived and grew with its people’s support. Hold on to your chapeaux one-and-all… it’s going to be a swell ride!
The whole package kicks off on Disc One with Coleman Hawkins with his short-lived 1940 big band from a Mutual remote coming from the Fiesta Danceteria in Manhattan. A MONSTER lengthy version of his 1939 hit record, “Body & Soul” – the penultimate version, in my estimation. Next, Ella Fitzgerald with a CBS studio orchestra… sublime. Then comes ole Fatsy Watsy and his Rhythm broadcasting from the Yacht Club on 52nd Street… eight pieces of absolute swinging bliss. This is followed by a Lionel Hampton jam from a 1938 Martin Block show on WNEW – swing defined! This particular disc ends with a kind of chamber jazz: two pieces from Carl Kress & Dick McDonough’s guitars, followed finally by the violin trio of Emilio Caceres with “China Boy” (a popular tune in those days!).
The second disc begins with a rollicking Albert Ammons “Boogie Woogie Stomp”, followed by a couple of pieces by Roy Eldridge and Chick Webb with a CBS studio band. More Fats Waller romping on WNEW, this time with a bunch of Condonites (and Zutty Singleton) for five numbers. These are followed by nine numbers by John Kirby’s small band (with Canada Lee as M.C.) from CBS in 1940. Sweet! Two cuts from The Savoy Ballroom by Benny Carter’s big band wind it down and leading to another “China Boy” by Joe Sullivan.
Disc Three begins samples from a variety of sources and musicians – Joe Marsala (4), Bobby Hackett (3), Jack Teagarden (2), Mildred Bailey (4), Stuff Smith (2). Disc Four goes with Teddy Wilson’s big band (3), Glenn Miller (3), Joe Sullivan improvs (7). It’s a mixed bag of interesting music by slightly lesser-known figures in the jazz world, but worthy of hearing. I found the Miller inclusions unexpected, but they hold up their end nicely. There are a number of Miller pieces taken from Martin Block broadcasts over WNEW-AM that hold up well. Then fly on the wall improvs by Joe Sullivan finish this valuable disc off.
The final two discs hit it out of the park and across the street with a mess of contemporary recordings of the “Old Testament” Count Basie band between 1938 and 1940. Mostly WCBS broadcasts from The Famous Door in ‘38, this is as prime as it gets in that realm! Herschel and Prez… I mean what could go wrong?! There is also a remote from Chicago’s Panther Room in ’39 and it all ends with a 1940 remote from Boston’s Southland Ballroom. Basie had a band for many decades as we all know, but this is the “original” one with which he created his legend. With so many great sidemen and soloists., plus the original bright and swinging “All-American” rhythm section. Brilliant and beautiful ultimately swinging music resulted!
This collection is worthy of getting all jazz fans to kneel down in thanks to the late Mr. Savory’s “saving” some great music that would otherwise never be heard by “us” fans once it went over the airwaves. While there have been many legendary location recordings that turned out not to be so legendary at all, this collection deserves such a label. In spades!! Boy, are we the lucky ones!
PETER B. LOWRY Sydney (2018)
LEADERS: Albert Ammons, Mildred Bailey, Count Basie, Emelio Caceres, Benny Carter, Bobby Hackett, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins, John Kirby, Carl Kress & Dick McDonough, Joe Marsala, Glenn Miller, Roy Eldridge, Ella Fitzgerald, Chick Webb, Stuff Smith, Joe Sullivan, Jack Teagarden, Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson. Side-men too many to list.