John "Captain John" Handy

CCJC Concert 1st Half

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Although born in Mississippi, Captain John Handy was as New Orleans traditional jazz as they come. Along with his brothers, he worked in that city with his Louisiana Shakers. Like most traditional jazz reedmen, Handy was trained on the clarinet, but later switched to sax on which he was a pioneer. Given the snobbish attitude toward that instrument by too many traditional jazz performers and listeners, it was an uphill battle for Handy to get accepted into the fraternity. But talent overcame prejudice and obdurateness, and for years he was a leading practitioner of the curved horn in a traditional jazz context. This CD is one of a two-volume set of a concert Handy and his jazz band gave before The Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club in 1970, about six months before he passed on. With him he had his longtime playing companion, trumpeter and vocalist Punch Miller, who was in especially good form on such tunes as "Exactly Like You." Andrew Morgan, whose clarinet and rough and ready vocalizing were the highlights of a swinging "St. Louis Blues" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street." But it was Handy on his alto that drove the group. The man played in a seamless way as if he never needed a breath. Maybe Charlie Parker listened to some of his albums during his formative years. A relatively youngish Dick Wellstood -- at least compared to the ages of the others on the bandstand -- was on piano. It was kind of a passing of the torch from the older generation of trad jazz players to one from a newer generation. The members of the CCJC were treated to almost three hours of exciting heart-pumping music that May evening in 1970 by a pathfinder of the genre. Recommended.