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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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JOHN HANDY

Hard Work/Carnival

Impulse 06025 2780949

 

 

Hard Work
1. Hard Work
2. Blues For Louis Jordan
3. Young Enough To Dream
4. Love For Brother Jack
5. Didn't I Tell You
6. Afro Wiggle
7. You Don't Know
 
John Handy - Alto sax, tenor sax, vocals
Hotep Cecil Barnard - keyboards
Mike Hoffmann - Guitar
Chuck Rainey - Electric bass
James Gadson - Drums
Eddie "Bongo" Brown - Percussion, congas
Zakir Hussain - Tabla
 
Carnival
8. Carnival
9. Alvina
10. Watch Your Money Go
11. I Will Leave You
12. Love's Rejoycing
13. Make Her Mine
14. All the Things You Are
15. Christina's Little Song

John Handy - Alto sax, percussion, vocals, background vocals
Reginald "Sonny" Burke - Piano, keyboards, Arp synthesiser
George Spencer - Keyboards
Lee Ritenour - Guitar, keyboards, Arp synthesisers
Larry Carlton, Mike Hoffman - Guitars
Rudy Coleman, James Jamerson Sr., Vincent Jefferson - Bass
James Gadson, Harold Jones, John Handy IV - Drums
Eddie "Bongo" Brown, Paulinho Da Costa, Tom Nichols - Congas
Esmond Edwards - Percussion, background vocals
 

This CD contains two LPs from the mid-1970s recorded by saxist John Handy. Handy had come to attention through his work with Charles Mingus between 1959 and 1964, and had then formed his own group which made the very successful Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1965. This included one of my favourite Handy tracks - Spanish Lady. I also loved the extremely catchy Dancy Dancy which he recorded the following year.

John Handy had recorded little after 1968 until this pair of albums. Hard Work was a surprising success, with the title-track becoming a hit on the radio. Yet people who admired John Handy's earlier work might be surprised that it was a hit, because the title-track simply has a chorus repeating "hard work" while John Handy adds decorations on top and continues to improvise above a repetitive backing.

The same sort of thing happens in Young Enough to Dream, where Handy rhapsodises over a heavy accompaniment of chugging guitars, bass and synthesisers. John actually sings on some tracks such as Blues for Louis Jordan, which starts with a bluesy guitar but then has Handy thanking Louis Jordan for the blues. Handy is not exactly an outstanding vocalist, and most tracks on Hard Work are clearly attempts at commercial jazz-funk.

Things are about the same on Carnival, with choruses singing along on the title-track and Watch Your Money Go (complete with handclaps). Alvina is thankfully a lyrical ballad with some tender alto sax from John Handy. All the Things You Are (the only jazz standard on this CD) also offers respite from the ponderous backings, with Handy's saxophone accompanied sympathetically by a piano. These tunes remind us of what John could achieve but most tracks reveal none of his masterly talents. Like Cannonball Adderley, John Handy adapted the innovations of Charlie Parker to become a significant and popular artist, but these LPs played too much to the crowd.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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