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Capt. JOHN HANDY/JIMMY ARCHEY

RARE CUTS – WELL DONE Volume 6

Jazz Crusade JCCD-3092 2004 16 tracks, 72 min

SUGARFOOT STOMP, PORK CHOPS, MAKE ME A PALLET ON THE FLOOR, DOWN HOME RAG, CLIMAX RAG, BLUES OF NEW ORLEANS, PERDIDO, LOU-EASY-AN –I-A, YELLOW DOG BLUES, CALDONIA / DIPPERMOUTH BLUES, I’M COMING VIRGINIA, THE MOOCHE, ST. LOUIS BLUES, JUST A GIGOLO, THOU SWELL

Captain John Handy is, perhaps, the man best remembered for making the alto-sax an accepted instrument in a traditional jazz band’s frontline. As many alto players are also clarinettists, the question has oft been asked; ‘Can the Capt. cut the mustard on the liquorish stick?’ Well buy this CD and find out for yourself by listening to these 1965 recordings! The short answer is; yes. The longer answer? Well, he can play it and play it well, but not as well as others and not so well as he plays an alto. Complex eh! George Lewis he ain't as he plays the clarinet in the same style he plays his alto-sax. On some tracks, such as ‘Sugarfoot Stomp’, the Capt. plays as if he is very comfortable with the clarinet and then on others he seems to be not so comfortable. The worse track for me was ‘Make Me A Pallet On The Floor’ where he seemed to be trying to shove too many notes in and was failing get any lyrical ‘hanging’ notes which the clarinet does so well. But when Handy gets back onto the alto, then you really know why he is so beloved in jazz circles. If you want to hear him really blow a mean and wonderful alto then get onto ‘Blues of New Orleans’. All in all, a very interesting set of tracks and a must for Handy fans and also tempting for those who like trumpeter Alvin Alcorn.

And now for something completely different: air shots of trombonist Jimmy Archey from 1952, recorded at Jimmy Ryan’s Club, New York. To sum up these 6 tracks: nice jazz, shame about the sound quality. I listened first before reading the notes and was surprised to find later that they were from ‘52 as I had assumed they were from the 30s going by the sound. Now those out there who have brought vinyl across to CD via a PC know that you can filter out rumble & hiss and you can stalk and remove pops and bangs, but if the master is just well worn, you can’t restore the fidelity, and that is what has happened here. Rather a shame, but it is worth the effort of putting up with the sound to get to the jazz beneath. The feature artist is Jimmy Archey, but I must admit I found him rather suppressed by Henry Goodwin on trumpet and Benny Walters on clarinet and soprano sax. Just one final word of caution: if you have a bass booster on your personal stereo or portable player – take it off. The recordings on the Archey tracks are very bassy. Now I am sure that encourages you to listen to fine string bass playing of Pops Foster and the driving drums (including kettle drums?) of Tommy Benford, but can be destructive to your ear drums at anything above low volume.

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