Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
ghost of miles

George Handy

11 posts in this topic

Sort of an offshoot of Late's "John Carisi" thread and also inspired by my re-visitation of THE JAZZ SCENE last night following Lazaro's inquiries about Hawkins' "Picasso." What do others here think of Handy? I always enjoyed "The Bloos" from JAZZ SCENE and his work for Boyd Raeburn; what are his mid-1950s albums like? He seems like a somewhat mysterious figure in post-World War II jazz. Here's some material I found on the web:

George Handy

George Joseph Hendleman died of heart disease on January 8 in Harris, N.Y. He was 76. ‘Who?’ you say - well he was better known as George Handy. Still curious? Don't worry, he wasn't exactly a household name. In fact the last jazz record I could locate by him was recorded in April of 1955. He was once referred to at one point in an interview as having become "rich and famous". George denied having ever having seen enough money at any one time to ever be mistaken for rich. Later the interviewer (Bill Schremp) said, "So you now have become famous, if not rich." Handy replied, "This is our secret, though." (From Jazz Anecdotes by Bill Crow)

Handy was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on January 17, 1920, and was 9 days away from his 77th birthday when he died. He grew up in a Brooklyn borough known as Brownsville. Terry Gibbs, Frank Socolow, Tiny Kahn, Norm Faye and Al Cohn were some of his early musical buddies from that area. His studies began at an early age with his mother, who was a pianist. He later studied at the Juilliard School of Music, N.Y.U. and privately with Aaron Copland.

Handy’s first professional job of note was with Michael Loring in 1938. He joined the Army in 1940 and then worked with Raymond Scott for six months in 1941. It was around this time he began writing seriously. He was introduced to Boyd Raeburn in late 1943 and joined his band the following spring at the Lincoln Hotel. He was in and out of that band for a year and did his first important writing for Raeburn in early 1945 and '46. In between Handy did a stretch as a songwriter for Paramount (film) Studios in California. For a time he was the most talked about new arranger in jazz circles. He dropped out of sight for awhile emerging from time to time to play piano with the bands of Buddy Rich and Bob Chester.

This was a time when Handy was working on some piano sonatas and a ballet. He was commissioned by Norman Granz to write a piece for The Jazz Scene album. He came up with an extended piece, The Bloos, which was recorded in 1946. (The Jazz Scene, originally a limited edition 75-rpm album, was first issued in 1949). He again emerged in the 50s when he did a pair of dates for RCA Victor's Label X and wrote and played on a number of Zoot Sims sessions. Handy also contributed a pair of arrangements, Clifford Brown's La Rue and his own The Last Day of Fall, to Hal McKuslck's Cross-Section Saxes date on the Coral label. (Recently reissued on a Decca CD as Now's The Time). He continued to write classical works and did three saxophone quartets and a New York Suite for the New York Saxophone Quartet in 1964 and 1965. His Saxophone Quartet No. 1 was recorded by them on the 20th Century Fox label. He also wrote for Kay Thompson in this period and did some record reviews for Down Beat.

(There is additional material on Handy in the Jazz Oral History Project of the Institute of Jazz Studies located at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.)

In speaking of the Brownsville days, vibraphonist Terry Gibbs says, "I got to know George, who was completely weird at the time. He was wild. Different. Just different. I did a job with George where he actually stood up and told the bandleader to go fuck himself on stage. It was a society job. The bandleader was Herb Sherry. He (Sherry) was playing accordion, and I was playing drums, and we were playing (sings) ‘night and day, you are the one.’ Then he said, ‘You got the next one, George’, and George went into - you know how George wrote, he wrote abstract for those days. He got into his Stravinsky thing, and people were dancing. So Herb Sherry says, ‘Hey, they're dancing. Play the melody.’ And George fluffed him off, and again he says, ‘Hey, they're dancing. Play the melody.’ And George stood up and said, ‘Fuck you.’ And the whole place stopped dancing. He sat down and went back to his shit like it never happened. And Herb got scared. We went on with the tune, and we played another tune whatever, society tune and, again, when it was George's turn, he went into Stravinsky, and Herb talked to him again, and again George said, ‘Hey, l told you to go fuck yourself.’ And Herb said, ‘Go home.’ He wouldn’t go home. He went over to my vibes, and, oh, it was a scene. But George was different anyhow, of all the guys. But George has got talent." (From Swing To Bop by Ira Gitler).

The Alvino Rey band of the 40s spotted many young jazz musicians - Neal Hefti, Mel Lewis, Don Lamond, Johnny Mandel. Its arrangers included Jerry Feldman (later Fielding), Ray Conniff, Billy May and Handy. "The (1943) band got better and better. (Billy) May was contributing most of the arrangements, with others coming from a newcomer, Nelson Riddle, and a kid whose father came up to San Francisco where we were playing and took him by the hand and said, ‘Come on home, son.’ The ‘son’ was George Handy, soon to develop into one of the most creative arrangers of all time." (From The Big Bands by George T. Simon)

The band that Boyd Raeburn led at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in August 1946 was distinguished by any jazz standards. It was well rehearsed; its ensemble sound was handsome and its own. lt had a fresh alto soloist in Hal McKusick and a tenorman with a provocative set of new ideas in Frankie Socolow. Johnny Mandell (sic) played his own set of trombone variations on Bill Harris’ ideas and wrote arrangements that were still fresh. George Handy played piano and wrote scores that showed an astonishing growth beyond what he had been doing for the band in New York a year earlier. He had begun to write in earnest, utilizing his playing experience in his native city, New York, and his intensive pursuit of modern musical ideologies at New York University, Juilliard, and in private lessons with Aaron Copland. The ideologies were omnipresent: there were echoes of Bartok and Stravinsky, rolled into captivating hollers, in his arrangements of There's No You and Out of This World; there were obvious traces of the same influences in his collaborations with McKusick, Yerxa (the name of a L.A. columnist that intrigued George) and Tonsilectomy (sic); they were unabashed in Boyd Meets Stravinsky. [The latter is actually by Ed Finkel. –LD] Nonetheless, in such original compositions as Dalvatore Sally and The Boss, he was emerging as a jazz thinker of striking originality. There was more than a play on the name of a surrealist painter in Sally; there were too a nimble handing or tempo changes, polytonality, and a lovely overlying melody. The Bloos reached entertainingly after twelve-bar chorus cliches and the combined resources of strings, woodwinds, and jazz sections. Stocking Horse, the musical story of a horse born with silver stockings on its hooves, which Handy wrote for Alvino Rey, changed time piquantly, as its subject demanded, shuttling back and forth between 4/4 and 5/4 time and other multiples of the quarter note that permitted the rhythm section to maintain its basic beat.

Handy left the band in 1943. He succumbed finally, although not forever, one hopes, to his calculated unorthodoxies. As others suit deed to word, Handy’s actions followed his music. His nonconformist practices ranged from the mild eccentricity of lapel-less jackets to the more out-of-the-way habit of wearing a beard (before and after the boppers made the hirsute adornments de rigeur) to the highly irregular procedure of dyeing his hair (and beard), in which he was imitated by many adoring young musicians. Such behaviour patterns and their enlargement into a life dominated by the lust for gratuitous pleasures have taken their toll of many more jazzmen than Handy and his aping attendants; they have rarely debilitated a better musician. (From A History of Jazz In America by Barry Ulanov)

(Dalvatore Sally has been reissued on the Savoy CD, Boyd Meets Stravinsky, but most of the important Handy material for the Raeburn band - Yerxa, Forgetful, Rip van Winkle and Tonsillectomy - is not easily available.)

The arrangers of the 40s that Tadd Dameron most admired included John Lewis, Ralph Burns and George Handy. Handy's The Bloos for Norman Granz's Jazz Scene album, a set partly dedicated to the future of jazz, has sections of cascading crescendos right out of Stravinsky contrasted with some introspective trombone from Bill Harris and a driving tenor solo by Herbie Steward, backed by no less than three drummers. (Don Lamond, Jackie Mills and Jimmy Pratt). (From Jazz Masters of the Forties by Ira Gitler)

Norman Granz asked the musicians involved with the Jazz Scene project to send him pertinent information about themselves. Here is Handy's reply: "Born in Brooklyn in 1920. Schools - Erasmus High, N.Y.U., Juilliard. Studied privately with Aaron Copland for a while, which did neither of us any good. Raeburn, Babe Russin, Alvino Rey, Buddy Rich, Benny Goodman are some of the bands I've written for. None of them play anything of mine now. Only thing worthwhile in my life is my wife Flo and my boy Mike. The rest stinks including the music biz and all connected. I'm still living. George Handy."

Granz adds: "When we did the record date, Handy told me that he was tired of everyone doing the blues in the same conventional way. He said he'd do something different with them. Even his title is wryly different - it's called The Bloos." (The Jazz Scene CD reissue on Verve - Norman Granz including an alternate take).

Handy hooked up with Bird and Dizzy in California in February of 1946. "The Parker-Gillespie Sextet closed at Billy Berg's the first Monday in February. The following night (February 5) Charlie, Dizzy, (Stan) Levey, and Ray Brown joined George Handy, pianist and arranger for the Boyd Raeburn orchestra, to rehearse what was to be the first record session for a new Hollywood label, Dial - launched by me. Handy had contracted to lead the session and produce the musicians. His plan called for Lester Young to complete the front line, and had the makings of a supersession. It proved too good to be true. Lester could not be found that evening. The rest of musicians arrived at Electro Broadcast Studios in Glendale with a small army of hipsters and their women in tow, and the rehearsal took place in monumental confusion. The studios, part of a broadcasting station owned by a local splinter religious organization, were located in an elegiac little park adjoining Forest Lawn Cemetery, the world's most lavishly appointed burying ground. As the task force overflowed from the studio onto the park, bringing pot smoking and free love in a public place to prim suburban Glendale, recording arrangements became hopelessly confused. While all of this was amusing, it was not conductive to the making of records. A test playback of Lover, with a short Parker solo, was completed but nothing else. Undaunted, Handy declared himself well pleased with the evening's work, assured the Dial management that all would be well, and instructed his musicians to be on hand promptly at eight the following night for the actual session. At seven-thirty Handy reported in that he could not produce Charlie, let alone Lester. Handy had bird-dogged Charlie for the whole night. Sometime around dawn Charlie had given him the slip. Thus was missed the chance to record one of the outstanding small bands of jazz." (From Bird Lives! by Ross Russell).

Russell leaves a few musicians out of this description, Arv Garrison, guitar and Lucky Thompson, tenor sax are also on Diggin’ Diz (the Lover variant credited to Handy) which was released later and is now available on CD - The Legendary Dial Masters (Stash).

Around the time Handy rejoined Boyd Raeburn (1946), the band had switched from the Guild label to Jewel, a company owned by Ben Pollack, a drummer who led jazz-oriented dance bands in the 20s and early 30s, bands that included people like Benny Goodman, Harry James, Glenn Miller and Jack Teagarden. Pollack was looking for Goodman styled dance music, music several light years away from what Handy was producing for Raeburn. Singer David Allyn recalls "Remember the thing I did, Forgetful? He wanted to pick up the tempo so bad on that date. Jesus Christ! You know you couldn't stop him. He kept waving his arms, and you could see it. In that control booth, like waving his arms to pick it up, and it couldn't be done, not the way Handy wrote it. It had no business being any faster than he wrote it." Handy's first contribution to the band was in 1944, a vocal arrangement which prompted Raeburn to call him, "the man I've been looking for." (From Swing to Bop by Ira Gitler)

To my knowledge George Handy only did two record dates under his own name, Handyland U.S.A and By George! (Handy, Of Course), both for the RCA Victor subsidiary Label X, both very rare items. The first was recorded in August of 1954 with Allen Eager, tenor sax; Dave Schildkraut, alto; Danny Bank, baritone; Kai Winding, trombone; Ernie Royal, trumpet; Vinnie Burke, bass; Art Mardigan, drums; and Handy, piano. There are a dozen Handy compositions on the release: Recoil, A Tight Hat, Noshin’, Sprong, Rainbow, Pegasus, Lean To, Blinuet, Case-Ace, Crazy Lady, Zonkin’ and Footnotes. It's an album ". . . devoid of any of his former classicisms. It devotes itself to the swinging of charming themes, several of them based on the blues, with echoes of Parker and Gillespie". (From Jazz Masters of the Forties by Ira Gitler). The second album was recorded in April of 1955 and had a less conventional musical makeup. This one was by a tentet that included flute, oboe, piccolo and violin. The musicians involved included Schildkraut, Bank, Ray Beckenstein, Tommy Mace, Frank Rehack, Billy Byers, Dick Sherman, Charlie Panelli, Gene Orloff, Tony Aless, Buddy Jones and Osie Johnson. Again there are 12 Handy originals: Maretet, A Wooden Sail in a Wooden Wind, Foolish Little Boy, Heavy Hands, Of Gossamer Sheen, Tender Touch, Pensive, Stream of Consciousness, The Flatterer, Knobby Knees, Pulse and The Sleepwalker.

In 1994, when Bob Rusch asked Danny Bank, who played on both those sessions, what would be his choice rhythm section, he replied, "Oh boy. I think guys like Jo Jones, pianists like George Handy, Gene DiNovi and the bassist George (Duvivier) or the Judge (Milt Hinton) and Turk Van Lake." (Cadence, July 1996).

In 1954, prior to returning to New York after a stay in rehab in Lexington, Kentucky, Handy wrote in a letter, ". . . I'm returning to life. Yes, after being away from it these many years I find myself ready, anxious, yes, desirous for the ‘home coming’."

"As you probably know, I've been a sick fool for some time, and as a result allowed everything about me to deteriorate . . . everything I needed and wanted evaporated all at once. It threw me for a loop and I was in total despair, but fortunately it caused me to take stock of the scene and realize that something had to be done, and that I needed help to get it done."

"So down here I came, and am I glad I did!!! For I'm returning to mental health and becoming an integrated, well formed being, and developing worthy groovy habit patterns. No need to go into the psychiatric aspects of my recovery."

Handy said "Jazz is for me any kind of music you can express within the limitations of its forms - and if you want to throw over those limitations, that's all right too."

After arriving back in New York he said, "I feel like a little boy who has just seen something for the first time and loves it and wonders about it and just can't let go". The author of the piece goes on to say - "It seems to me that out of the lower depths and higher plateaus of the confrontation of self which George Handy has undergone, he has managed to recapture something approaching innocence, I don't know a higher compliment." (A Handy Man to Have Back - uncredited article in the October 1954 edition of Metronome .)

George Handy compositions (not mentioned here) include Awful Lonely, Blow Wind Blow, Caine Flute Sonata, Cartophilus, Echoes of You, Grey Suede Special Made, Hey Look I'm Dancing, How Did I Meet Your Daddy, Keef and Johnny Is Mine.

His first writing for the Raeburn band appeared originally on the Grand label. The date was May 15, 1944 and the titles were Starlight Avenue and This Must Be Love, both with vocals from Don Darcy.

In Hollywood in October of 1945 Raeburn did his first session for the Jewel label and the Handy pieces recorded were Tonsilectomy (sic), Forgetful, Rip Van Winkle and Yerxa.

In 1946 there were two sessions for Jewel which produced Dalvatore Sally, plus arrangements of I Only Have Eyes For You and Temptation and (on the second) arrangements of Over The Rainbow and Body and Soul.

George Handy

b. 17 January 1920, New York City, New York, USA. After studying piano and composing at both Juilliard and New York University, Handy was tutored by Aaron Copland, the renowned American classical composer. In the early '40s he worked with Raymond Scott's orchestra at CBS studios in New York, but then turned his attention to arranging for the more progressively-minded big band leaders. Among the bands for which he wrote were those led by Alvino Rey, a popular guitarist who led an advanced and often overlooked big band in the mid-40s, and Boyd Raeburn, for whom he made his most notable contributions to jazz. It is difficult to be too precise about which of Raeburn's successes were actually written by Handy as a dispute arose between Handy and Raeburn on the one hand, and Eddie Finckel on the other over authorship of several of the band's best charts. At times Handy played piano with Raeburn, but proved an eccentric personality who was also somewhat unreliable (drummer Irving Kluger recalled that at one time Handy dyed his hair green and would occasionally lapse into unconsciousness over the keyboard). Handy made a few records of his own compositions under his own name, but by the late '40s had left the jazz scene. He reappeared briefly in the mid-50s recording and working with Zoot Sims but drifted out of sight again. In 1964 he was writing for the New York Saxophone Quartet but this too proved to be only a temporary creative burst from an erratic individual, whose greatest failing might be that he came onto the jazz scene several years before it was ready for him.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have always enjoyed his work with and for Boyd Raeburn - "Tonsillectomy" is a favourite.

His "Handyland" session for an RCA sublabel is a thoroughly swinging affair:

c2048.jpg

Handyland U S A

George Handy

Featuring: George Handy (p), Ernie Royal (tp), Allen Eager (ts), Dave Schildkraut (as), Kai Winding (tb), Vinnie Burke (b), Art Mardigan (d)

RCA Victor (Spain) 74321 61112 2

PRICE: 9.80 €

Tracklisting:

1. Recoil (Handy)

2. A Tight Hat (Handy)

3. Noshin' (Handy)

4. Sprong (Handy)

5. Rainbow (Handy)

6. Pegasus (Handy)

7. Lean To (Handy)

8. Blinuet (Handy)

9. Case-Ace (Handy)

10. Crazy Lady (Handy)

11. Zonkin' (Handy)

12. Footnotes (Handy)

Recorded in New York City, 1954

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Considering the players involved, I have been "bummed" by Handyland for about 40 years. Nothing wrong, but nothing great.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I bought "Handyland U.S.A." way back when (haven't had it for years -- think Leon Levitt got it when he paid me a very creepy visit some 25 years ago) and agree with Chuck. There's something (or several somethings) about that date that aren't what they should be. As I recall: The pieces are too short, three minutes or so, for what is essentially a blowing date and a bit cutesy at times; Eager, one of the two soloists most of us would be most eager (sorry) to hear sounds a bit thick-fingered and thick-headed, like he's got a bad cold or hasn't been playing steadily enough (Eager admirers will still want to hear him on this though), while Schildkraut (the other main attraction IMO) seems, like most everyone else, to be a bit detached from the proceedings. Sound is not quite right too and might have contributed a great deal to this feeling; it's like they're in a big hall (Webster Hall, probably--normally a fine place to record I believe), but the engineer got too much of an empty big hall sound (this doesn't help Art Mardigan ins particular). The soloist who comes off best, I recall, was Ernie Royal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll have to disagree with Larry here, as I find Schildkraut's playing on Handyland excellent - it's odd and somtimes disconnected, but that was, strangely enough, Davey's m.o. His method of rythmic displacement was quite radical for its time. And let's not forget that it was on one of those cuts (maybe Case Ace?) that Davey was mistaken by Mingus for Bird in a blindfold test -

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's not much to add to GOM's exhaustive web research on GH., but I always wondered what happened to GH after 1970. It turns out he wound up playing piano at a few resorts up in the Catskills, including Grossinger's and the Granite Hotel, according to the dissertation mentioned in the OP's post.

Most interesting are the three pieces he wrote in his later years, two Saxophone Quartets (one recorded by the New York Saxophone Quartet), and the Caine Flute Sonata.

Has anyone heard any of these pieces? How are they? Are they available on disc?

Handy felt his writing career was destroyed by his eighteen year addiction to heroin. He remained on methadone up to his death.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

His New York Suite can be heard on the Handy website; will listen to it myself shortly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

More on Handy, and scroll down for Gene Lees' scarifying piece on Stan Getz.

http://www.donaldclarkemusicbox.com/jazzletter/1997-5.pdf

 

3 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

His New York Suite can be heard on the Handy website; will listen to it myself shortly.

I just listened to it. The first two songs(?) of the Suite were pretty bad. Just repetitive dissonant chords in rhythmic unison. No strong melodic invention whatsoever. Just those repeated arp triplets. I can see why the NY Saxophone Quartet refused to record it, if they only played the first two parts.

Finally, by the third section of the suite, he woke up. Real melodic invention, nice harmonic movement, and some playfulness with the texture. The rest of the sections were just as fun, with an ostinato that allowed for some improvisation by the players, which were probably the highlight of the piece.

Nowhere near the level of the poetic Sauter Quartet that Jim posted, but if you skip the first two sections, definitely worth listening to.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I did some searching on the flute sonata that Handy wrote for Eddie Caine (The Caine Flute Sonata), a well-known winds player in NY for many years (played flute and piccolo on the Sketches of Spain album, and other things Gil Evans did), and it seems that Handy destroyed the Master for both the recording of The Caine Sonata, and an album that he and his wife (Flo Handy, soon to become Al Cohn's wife) made, because the psycho thought his wife sang so well, she would supersede him in his career. Both recordings were done at about the same time, so he apparently 'stole' both, and they were never found.

Hey, if you can break your wife's heart, why not break your best friend's, also...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.