Craig Handy

Flow

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Flow is a good title for a Craig Handy album: His riverine solos tumble out with an easy, unforced feeling, even when the saxophonist is going at top speed, and his rhythm section -- Ali Jackson (drums), Xavier Davis (piano), and Rodney Whitaker (bass) -- stomps with aggressive exuberance and joy. The tunes here -- five Handy compositions and one each by Jackson, Herbie Hancock, and Cole Porter -- are for the most part thoughtfully arranged, often featuring a set rhythmic pattern such as a piano or drum vamp. The most convincing track isn't an original, but rather Porter's "Just One of Those Things." Taken at a breakneck tempo, it begins with a nervous piano/sax combination that comes back to punctuate a crisp brushes solo by Jackson. Handy brings the opening waltz, "It's Up to You," to a great climax. As on Handy's previous album for Sirocco, Reflections in Change, the leader experiments with rap and synthesizers on the maudlin, autobiographical, and rather woodenly medium-tempo "Tori," rapped by Jackson. There was a time when only drummers were expected to play multi-directionally, but now, in New York's most sophisticated rhythm sections, everyone has loosened up, elbowing out every which way, which makes for an exciting, syncopated dance. Here, however, it creates a situation where the rhythm section overshadows the leader. On "Changes One," there's a section where Handy is soloing but Davis' clanging chords generate more interest and attention than the saxophonist does. Handy, who plays out of the modal Wayne Shorter school, has an attractively warm, dark tone and lots of chops, but his note-filled solos are rarely inspiring.

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