Friday, January 15, 2016

Coming in Handy

What did the guy to the left of the photographer just say? We'll never know, but showing utter consternation are, from left, Dave Lambert, bassist John Simmons, Daz McVoutorooney, George Handy (the subject of this offering) and a zonked Chubby Jackson. Bill Gottlieb photo

How often do you get to live near greatness? And not know it? Not too often, I suspect. In my case, out here in the far-flung Catskills, it happens more often than you might think. Pianist Hal Galper lives in the county. Kenny Werner, too. Guitarist and composer James Emery also lives nearby. Bill Mays plays his piano just across the Delaware in Pennsylvania. Hugh Brodie used to call me regularly from his home in the county seat, Monticello. My good friend, drummer Thurman Barker, lives in the town right next door to mine. There are many other refugees from the New York jazz scene in these rural hills, and at one time or another I've had the privilege to get to know most them.

But one I missed. His name was George Handy, and he was a noted composer and arranger in the 1940s and '50s. He's probably best known for his work with the progressive Boyd Raeburn Orchestra and then for his singular contribution to producer Norman Granz's landmark recording, "The Jazz Scene" (also offered here on Gems). He had a tempestuous relationship with the music biz and made only a few recordings while he was still active in New York and Los Angeles. One of those is featured with this posting.

George bailed on the industry for good in the late 1950s, settling eventually in upstate New York. He chose the Catskills because there was, at the time, a vibrant hotel scene with thousands of tourists and plenty of work for musicians who had tired of the New York City rat race. Handy worked in near anonymity in world class resorts like Grossinger's, Brown's and Kutsher's. He played piano in pit bands, doing arrangements as needed for whatever acts were appearing. 

I was told about George Handy by other musicians I met not long after moving here myself. "You should talk to George," they all urged. But somehow, even after I started doing my jazz radio show, I never got around to it. And then, in 1997, I heard George had died. An opportunity missed, for sure.

But why did Handy opt out of the big music world just 120 miles to the south? I asked a friend, a reed player who worked in the hotel bands with George, and he said it was the usual story, one often told about musicians from Handy's era. Apparently George had picked up a habit, as so many did, and it made him unreliable. He likely moved to the sticks to regain his health.


Dave Schildkraut, looking quite natty.
But in the summer of 1954, when this record was made, Handy was in top form. The dozen tunes on this album, all originals, were all recorded in one long night, as you'll read in the liner notes, and all they were entirely new to the players. The band just played the charts cold and soloed like the hardened pros they were. Handy is on piano, and he gets in a few good licks. The players were some of the best in the city at the time, and the obscure Dave Schildkraut makes a rare appearance. Allen Eager, about to become a ski instructor, is also onboard.

This record was a thrift shop find and looked funky. But, as you'll hear, the sound is quite good – very little cleaning was required. Recorded, as always, from the original "X" label vinyl, crew. Enjoy!














Handyland USA
George Handy
RCA "X" LXA-1004

Handy, p, comp, arr; Ernie Royal, tp; Kai Winding, tbn; Dave Schildkraut, as; Allen Eager, ts; Danny banks, bar; Vinnie Burke, b; Art Mardigan, d.
Webster Hall, New York, NY; August 16, 1954

1. Recoil
2. A Tight Hat
3. Noshin'
4. Sprong
5. Rainbow
6. Pegasus
7. Lean To
8. Blinuet
9. Case-Ace
10. Crazy Lady
11. Zonkin'
12. Footnotes

Find it here: http://www.mediafire.com/download/8d2uvobcsfdcn24/handyland.rar

8 comments:

  1. Kai Winding is always welcome.

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  2. That's an interesting group photo. Love the hair styles, fashion and expressions. Music's not bad either. I was not familiar with dave schildkraut.

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    1. Schildkraut had the distinct pleasure of recording with Miles, a odd occurrence for a relatively unknown player (who was white in addition to his obscurity). He's an OK altoist, but the story behind his recording with Davis is doubtless an interesting one. Another project for my ever-expanding list of to-dos.

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  3. I just found your blog and it's an excellent place to be, obviously a labor of love. Old jazz records are a passion and your selection is amazing. Thanks for all your posts.
    P.S. In case nobody told you, your link is not active due to the availability of at least one song on the recording. Mediafire does that unfortunately.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Dirk. A labor of love, yes indeed. But music is to share and I've got a lot of music that needs to be shared. Just wish I had more time to do it! As for the link, I just checked it and seems to be OK. Let me know if you're still having trouble and I'll reup it under a different file name.

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    2. I'm still getting the Permission Denied page, just so you know. If you do re-up this that would be fantastic! And yes, that photo is absolutely great.

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    3. Try it now, Dirk. I just replaced the file and the correct link is above and here: http://www.mediafire.com/download/8d2uvobcsfdcn24/handyland.rar

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  4. Success! And I had a similar thing happen with another of your links but by refreshing the page and trying again, it worked. It pays to stick with it!

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