Monday, June 7, 2010

‘Priceless’ music collection leaves Malta for N.Y.

Daily Chronicle

MALTA – Loren Schoenberg ended a 30-year quest Thursday afternoon by retrieving an “unknown collection of stuff” that he’s certain will alter history.

“The truth is, these are priceless,” said Schoenberg, 51, scanning a room filled with boxes that contained nearly 1,000 acetate, aluminum and vinyl records. “These literally cannot be purchased.”

Schoenberg, the executive director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, N.Y., traveled with two helpers to Malta this week to retrieve the delicate media. It will be transferred to the museum – an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution – and digitized.

Around 3 p.m. Thursday, Schoenberg, musician Kevin Cerovich and jazz record producer Scott Wenzel had inventoried 765 records, they said. They began the process Monday.

The records are the life work of the late Bill Savory, a recording engineer who made every effort to save jazz performances of the “Big Band Era” in the 1930s and beyond, said his son, Eugene Desavouret, 61. Savory also recorded historical conversations with other musical engineers to ensure that the details of technical progress would be available to everyone.

“Personally, I just want these to be out of my house and into somebody’s ears,” Desavouret said Thursday, with a laugh.

Leaving behind a carefully labeled and well-taken-care-of legacy of his music, compositions and instrumental arrangements, Savory died in 2004. His nearly 1,000 original records, as well as audio tapes, were recovered from his estate in Falls Church, Va., his son said.

The collection includes many never-before-heard arrangements by American jazz musician Benny Goodman, who enthusiasts know as the “King of Swing.” Recordings of singer and songwriter Billie Holiday also are included in the mix, as well as historical speeches by former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Wenzel said.

“You can happen upon collections, here and there, but these are unreleased recordings,” Wenzel, 50, said, adding that most of the work was recorded before 1941, when Savory was in his late teens and early 20s. “No one knew these even existed.”

Schoenberg had an idea they existed, he said, and first asked Savory about the sound bites in 1980. He’d been wondering about them ever since.

Schoenberg said he planned to drive the recordings – he calls them the “cream of the crop” – to New York on Thursday night in a moving truck. That way “they do not leave my sight,” he said.

“If I had found just five of these discs, it would have created a stir,” Schoenberg said. “In essence, there’s no genre of the arts that won’t be affected by this collection. These are just a bunch of messy old boxes until you rescue them.”

SOURCE: Special thanks to Kate Schott at Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, Ill. for allowing me to reprint this material.

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