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CD Reviews

Date Posted: 2010-07-12

Capt. John Handy
With Geoff Bull
(GHB)

There have been two John Handy`s who played alto. One is the modern musician who was the hit of the 1965 Monterey Jazz Festival, has long been based in San Francisco and was with Charles Mingus in the late 1950s. The other one, Capt. John Handy, was particularly unusual because he played alto in New Orleans jazz bands during a period when the saxophone was barely thought of by traditionalists as a jazz instrument. While there were some tenor players who managed to find acceptance (especially Bud Freeman and Eddie Miller), the alto was thought of primarily as a horn that led saxophone sections in big bands.

Capt. John Handy ignored that stereotype and developed a rocking stomping style that was touched by rhythm and blues. He had strong technical skills, a sound of his own, and his rollicking playing enlivened many ensembles. Although a professional musician since 1917 (he was originally a clarinetist) and a fine saxophonist since 1928, Handy (who lived until 1971) did not become prominent on recordings until his final decade.

With Geoff Bull, which is available from GHB (www.jazzology.com), features Handy with a British sextet from 1966 that also includes trumpeter Geoff Bull, trombonist Pete Dyer, pianist Graham Paterson, bassist Brian Turnock and drummer Barry Martyn. Bull, who displays a joyfully primitive style, and the boisterous Dyer get as much solo space as Handy and are both heard in excellent form. Even so, Handy`s solos often take honors and he keeps the ensembles from ever sounding too predictable or laidback.

The repertoire, which includes “Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet,” “I Can`t Escape From You,” “War Cloud” (the original title for “Fidgety Feet”) and “On A Coconut Island,” is full of appealing melodies and chord changes that inspire the players. The two versions of “Ain`t She Sweet” are quite fun, with the first one being taken at a fast tempo that results in some ferocious playing. In addition to the original program, three previously unreleased selections add to the set`s quantity without lowering the quality.

Fans of New Orleans jazz will find much to enjoy both on this fine recording and in the huge catalog of GHB and its related labels.
Scott Yanow

This is in the July issue of the Los Angeles Jazz Scene:

Earl Hines
Three Faces Of Earl Hines
(Jazzology)

One of the greatest jazz artists of all time, Earl Hines was the first major jazz pianist to break up stride patterns in the 1920s, suspending time (although never losing the beat) with his left hand while his right played stunning runs. In addition to having the trickiest left hand in the business (almost sounding like one of the more radical bebop drummers of the 1940s), his right often played ringing octaves (called “trumpet style”) so he could be heard over a big band. While he strided in a relaxed style, his imagination was constantly on the move and he would break into the most modern ideas on a moment`s notice.

Hines` long career included work with Louis Armstrong (including remarkable recordings in 1928) and Jimmie Noone`s Apex Club Orchestra in the 1920s along with his first recorded piano solos, leading a big band during 1928-48, having a stint with the Louis Armstrong All-Stars (1948-51), touring with Jack Teagarden, spending time in obscurity in San Francisco in the 1950s while leading a dixieland band, and being rediscovered in 1964 when he played a pair of concerts in New York. During the 19 years before his death in 1983, Hines thoroughly enjoyed his “comeback,” touring, performing and recording prolifically while never losing his creativity or enthusiasm.

Three Faces Of Earl Hines contains previously unreleased performances of Hines in 1967. The title “Three Faces” has to do with Hines being featured solo, in a trio and with a big band, but the bulk of this CD has the pianist playing unaccompanied solos. Each of those four segments are medleys, with the most delightful one being the first one which has Hines playing “I Cover The Waterfront,” “My Monday Date,” “Apex Blues” and “You Can Depend On Me.” The second medley concludes with a trio workout on “Lil` Darlin`,” the third one has three of his vocals (he was just a so-so singer) and the fourth is a brief combination of “I Wish You Love” and “It`s A Pity To Say Goodnight.” In addition, Earl Hines is featured on a pair of spirited blues with the Alan Hare Big Band: “Blues In G” and “Hines-Hare Stomp.”

Throughout the program, Earl Hines` playing is full of joy, making this an excellent CD to pick up and a strong addition to his huge discography. It is available from www.jazzology.com.
Scott Yanow

This is in the May issue of the Los Angeles Jazz Scene:

Les Paul
After You`ve Gone
(Audiophile)

Before he designed the Les Paul Guitar, became an innovator with overdubbing techniques, and teamed up to make hit records with Mary Ford, Les Paul in the mid-1940s led a jazz quartet that also included either Milt Raskin or Buddy Cole on piano, rhythm guitarist Cal Goodin and bassist Clinton Nordquist.

Although he had started out playing hillbilly music on the radio in the 1930s, Paul was a sophisticated jazz improviser and one of the first Americans to be influenced a bit by Django Reinhardt.

After You`ve Gone is comprised of Les Paul`s radio transcriptions of 1944-45 that were cut for the World Broadcasting Corporation. The performances are tight and quite concise with the longest of the 28 selections clocking in at 2:52 and only two songs exceeding 2:35. Paul has nearly all of the solo space, the arrangements are often-witty, and the playing throughout is flawless even though, being radio transcriptions (as opposed to originally being commercially available recordings), most of the renditions are first takes. The tunes are mostly swing standards and find Les Paul showing posterity just how strong a jazz guitarist he was in his early days, a talent that never left him.

This historic and highly enjoyable CD is available from www.jazzology.com.
Scott Yanow

And this came out in March:

Doc Souchon
The Lakefront Loungers & His Milneberg Boys
(GHB)

A surgeon by day, Doc Souchon was also a New Orleans-based guitarist and singer who made important contributions as a writer, educator and lecturer. He was the founder of the New Orleans Jazz Club in 1947 and wrote scholarly articles for The Second Line.

On this CD, two of his rare sessions as a leader are reissued together. Although he takes three vocals, Souchon (who doubles on banjo) is mostly content to be part of the ensembles and accompany the excellent soloists. The 1958 session has a septet also including cornetist Johnny Wiggs, clarinetist Raymond Burke, trombonist Paul Crawford, pianist Knocky Parker, bassist Sherwood Mangiapane and drummer Paul Barbarin while the 1961 set teams Souchon with Burke, trumpeter Mike Lala, trombonist Jack Delaney, pianist Armand Hug, bassist Chink Martin and drummer Monk Hazel. Fans of traditional New Orleans jazz of the 1950s will recognize most of these names for these were some of the best players in the Crescent City.

Throughout the two highly enjoyable and spirited sessions, the musicianship is impressive, the solos are logical extensions of the ensembles, and all of the key players are well featured. Among the more memorable selections are a swinging version of “America The Beautiful,” “Come back Sweet Papa,” Souchon`s singing on “Stack-O-Lee,” “Smiles,” and Sister Elizabeth Eustis` guest vocal on “Down By The Riverside.”

This easily recommended and joyous music is available from www.jazzology.com.
Scott Yanow


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