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Jazz classics that were lost and found

Recently discovered jazz music recordings show improvisation in its heyday.

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Only about halfway through the boxes, the jazz museum staff has already discovered rarities including a six-minute version of "Body and Soul" by Coleman Hawkins, twice as long as any version previously known. They found early recordings of Louis Jordan playing the saxophone. There is what Schoenberg believes to be the first live recording of Billie Holiday singing her iconic song, "Strange Fruit," a version that yields an intensity not heard on later recordings.

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After purchasing the collection, the museum's board of directors entrusted their prize to audio restoration specialist Doug Pomeroy. Drawing upon 40 years of experience, Mr. Pomeroy is cleaning the discs and transferring the music to digital format. When museum officials have finished cataloging the collection, Pomeroy says they will select which discs he will restore and, using computer software, he will be able to eliminate most surface noise. Even without any restoration, though, he says he has been amazed at the quality of the sound.

The museum plans to release selections from the collection, says Schoenberg, but the task will not be simple. The recordings present a tangle of competing legal rights of publishers and estates and not every contributor is reliably identified on the discs.

Arthur Barnes, a retired corporate executive who serves as chairman of the museum's board, has been in discussions with lawyers seeking a satisfactory resolution. He said he remains undaunted by the challenge.

"As with any major problem, there is always a solution," Mr. Barnes says.

Listening to the recordings has been a special thrill for him since he hasn't heard some of these songs since he was a child growing up in Harlem. Barnes recalls going with his father to Carnegie Hall to hear Duke Ellington perform "Black and Tan Fantasy" and he now considers it to be imperative that he help make the Savory recordings accessible to younger generations.

While they pursue a legal resolution, museum officials have posted clips on their website www.jazzmuseuminharlem.org and have hosted listening parties at the museum's visitor center. Barnes considers the National Jazz Museum in Harlem to be a most fitting repository for the Savory Collection.

"Harlem may not have been the birthplace of jazz but it was the incubator," Barnes says.

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