The History of the Albums – n°297
There are many fantastic feelings when you are a music lover that few people can understand when music is just entertainment in their eyes (it is a personal choice that they respect). Today I'd like to make an apology for one of these sensations, close to idyllic happiness because I know I'm talking to music lovers here. I think it happens to all lovers and many times too, you know that feeling of discovering an album or/and an artist very little known, or even unknown, but which nevertheless transcends you totally. You know, it's that story that nobody knows, like that valuable object hidden and tucked away in the attic. This feeling of pride to have unearthed the treasure buried for centuries. It's a feeling of indescribable happiness for those who have never experienced it, but so familiar to lovers and curious people, who every day try to find the revelation. In short, I think you have understood my words. It is for this reason that today I am going to talk to you about a magnificent artist and an album that I believe can be classified in this category of sensation of "discovery" even if it is far from being a total unknown. So I am honoured to tell you about John Handy and his album: Recorded Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival . "Who, John Handy? Another folk, blues or country artist deeply depressed? "No, John Handy is a very talented alto saxophonist who has navigated between different eras, from the avant-garde jazz to more mainstream content. Although he is still active today, John Handy has not been able to establish himself as a leader in the face of the stiff competition of the time due to a lack of memorable references. However, in the 70s, Handy was a rather popular jazzman.
Originally from Dallas and born in 1933, John Handy is known in the world of jazz for 3 reasons. The main reason is that he worked for Charles Mingus, notably on Mingus Ah Um (1959), Mingus Dynasty (1959) and Blues & Roots (1960), before becoming a permanent member of the group Mingus Dynasty from the late 70s to the early 90s. The second is the commercial success of his Hard Work album released in 1976 and in particular his eponymous single. And finally, the last reason is for his famous 1965 live performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival which gave birth to one of the most successful and underestimated live jazz albums of the 60s. John Handy is first and foremost an enterprising and daring alto saxophonist and composer who distinguishes himself by his powerful and warm playing, which has both its limits and its charm. John Handy made his Roulette debut in 1958, with the recording of his debut album In The Vernacular (released the following year) at the height of Hard Bop. However, it was in 1959, when he worked for Charles Mingus, that John Handy became known, collaborating on several Mingus albums (including Mingus Ah Um). To put it in context, Hard Bop was still in full expansion at the time, but John Handy working for Charles Mingus became one of the first pioneers of Post-Bop and a precursor of the Jazz avant-garde. This impressive musical openness and his phenomenal adaptation are the ingredients that explain John Handy's ability to do almost anything he wants in Jazz. It's something really rare, an atypical profile. In fact, that's why he was to be so smooth and gifted in what was to become known as Jazz Crossover in the 70s. Refocusing later in the 60s on his personal work as a leader, John Handy will gradually become well known in the jazz circuit, until becoming one of the outsider stars of festivals such as the Monterey Jazz Festival.
Impressed by his first performance in 1964 at the Monterey Jazz Festival, Columbia decided to sign John Handy in 1965 and produce his first album live at the next Monterey Jazz Festival. Recorded in September 1965, this delicious live album remains to this day the undisputed reference of his career as a leader. Accompanied by the famous bassist Don Thompson, the guitarist Jerry Hahn, the violinist Mike White and the drummer Terry Clarke, the quintet of John Handy sublimates the 2 unique tracks of this album. Composed by Handy himself, Recorded Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival distinguishes itself first of all by its atypical and unusual formation with a guitarist and especially a violinist. Approaching an Avant-Garde aesthetic and dictated by Modal structures, Recorded Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival illuminates by its various fusions, its experiments, its improvisations, its interactions and also by the suspended atmosphere that is set up. If we take all these elements into account and add the personal signature of the leader Handy, the result is a fantastically seductive formula, which explains why this album is so excellent. If the 2 tracks have the same backbone translated by the elements I mentioned before, they both manage to stand out without losing their homogeneity. If Only We Knew is a breathtaking demonstration of the art of freedom, showing all the mastery of the quintet. Whether for its warm timbre, its various interactions and these "real" solos, this composition gives the impression that time stands still, like hypnosis, leaving the listener at the mercy of the performers. All of this is witness to such depth, that we can imagine the emptiness under our feet. Moreover, on several occasions when listening to If Only We Knew, I had the impression of listening to prog rock / jazz rock from the 70s, because the essence of this composition, articulated around an early jazz fusion, exudes some rock n roll in the mind. The second composition, Spanish Lady, resonates more like a kind of more folkloric, wild ballad that takes you along at full speed without ever getting bored. Spread over 19 minutes, Spanish Lady takes on a completely different twist over the last 5 minutes, getting closer to the Latin tone of its theme. It's so vibrant, so touching. Although Recorded Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival will never be cited as a priority when discussing Jazz, this extraordinary album is an ever-exciting marvel that sums up all of John Handy's genius