Thursday, January 2, 2014

Craig Handy & Second Line Smith Okeh 2014

Craig Handy's first recording as a leader in over a decade and debut with Okeh is blues infused exploratory that pays homage to the great Jimmy Smith while raising Handy's game to the next musical level!
Brent Black /
Who is Craig Handy and why is this man smiling? You would be too if you just did a riff on the Jimmy Smith songbook that takes no prisoners and reinvents some classic tunes for the next generation. Handy is a saxophone virtuoso, one of the names people in the business are more than familiar with while the casual listener may struggle to place Handy and his prolific talent. As at home on soprano and alto as he is on tenor, Handy gets down and dirty with a soulful and soul filled discography that can only be pulled off by the most daring of performers. Craig Handy has no fear.

What makes Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith special is the ability to push the creative envelope but embracing that Crescent City Brass Band tradition with some special appearances from Wynton Marsalis, Dee Dee Bridgewater and a New Orleans legend in drummer Herlin Riley and legends in the making Ali Jackson and Jason Marsalis. Sousaphone giant Clark Cayton stops by and blues singer / guitarist Clarence Spady add their special brand of New Orleans flavor to a mighty rad gumbo of soulful flavor. The band consists of organ phenom Kyle Koehler and guitarist Matt Chertkoff with the end result being a deconstructed Jimmy Smith with the Big Easy vibe that makes old school new cool in a brand new way.

Tunes here are familiar and include "Organ Grinder's Swing" and the classic "Minor Chant." All participants are hitting their marks with the end result being the most creative release to kick off a new year and perhaps the second half of a stellar career for Craig Handy. The reharms here are spot on and avoid the potential harmonic landmines of mangling melodies that are timeless. A classic reinvention with plenty of upside!