Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Handy, John (John Richard Handy III)
Handy, John [John Richard Handy III], saxophonist, composer, educator; b. Dallas, TX, 3 February 1933. His mother is Pauline Conner Handy, b. 1916. His father is John R. Handy, b. 1914. His sister is Shirley M. Handy, b. 1934.
Handy is principally an alto saxophonist, but also plays tenor sax, saxello, baritone, clarinet, oboe and vocals. When he was 15, his family moved to Oakland, CA, where he started to play alto saxophone, and the family moved to Cleveland, OH when he was 17. John moved to San Francisco CA in 1952, and served in the U.S. Army from 1953-55. He lived in New York from 1959-62 and returned to San Francisco and lived there from 1962 through 1998. John was a self-taught musician until he entered college at San Francisco State University in 1952 where he majored in Clarinet. He earned a Bachelors Degree in Music from San Francisco State in 1963.
John Handy's first instrument was the recorder, which he obtained at age 11, follower by the clarinet at age 12, and the alto saxophone at age 15. He knew he wanted to be a musician from the time he was 10 years of age. John completed his senior year at McClymonds High School in Oakland in 1951. When he arrived at McClymonds at age 15, he had inadvertently left his clarinet behind in Dallas. He borrowed a saxophone from the McClymonds' Music Department on a Wednesday and played his first paid job on Saturday, 3 days later. He has been a working musician since that time. John was a part-time faculty member in the Music Department of San Francisco State University from 1968-80 and Artist-in-Residence from 1998-02. He introduced a large number of students to jazz music as an Instructor in a number of classes including "The History of Jazz", "Black Music from Africa to the Present", "Jazz Improvisation", and "Composing and Arranging". Handy has also taught at Stanford University, Hayward State University, UC Berkeley, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, among others.
His tunes "Spanish Lady" and "If Only We Knew" both earned Grammy nominations. His more extensive works include "Concerto for Jazz Soloist and Orchestra" which was premiered by the San Francisco Symphony; and "Scheme Number One" which was lauded as "a fine example of fixed and improvised music" by the great composer, Igor Stravinsky. John has performed as a guest soloist/guest artist with about a dozen orchestras and college bands, including the San Francisco Symphony in 1970.
For the past 20 years, John has led John Handy With Class, featuring John Handy with three female violinists/vocalists. This innovative group creates a new musical expression, which John refers to (tongue-in-cheek) as "Clazzical Jazz".
As a sideman, he has performed with The Boppraines, 1949-50, Lowell Fulsom, Stanley Willis, 1950, Hank Crawford, 1951, Ernie Lewis, 1951-52, Vernal Glen ("The Mad Genius"), 1951, Roy Hawkins, 1950-52, Gerald Wilson, 1952-53, Pee Wee Clayton Blues Band, 1953, Cedric Hayward Trio, 1955, Wilbur Brown Big Band, 1955, John Ingraham, 1955-56, Hank Ballad and the Midnighters, 1956, Fats Gaines, 1956, John Coppola/Chuck Travis Big Band, 1958-59, Junious Courtney Big Band, 1958, Kenny Dorham, 1958, Charles Mingus Big Band, 1958-59, Randy Weston, 1958-59 (summer), Buddy Hiles Big Band, 1958, San Francisco All Stars, 1976, Mingus Dynasty (Sue Mingus, Director), 1979, Count Basie Big Band (Grover Mitchell, Director), 1997, and the Vice Grip Big Band, 1999-02.
He returned to Oakland, CA in 1998 and currently lives there with his wife, Del Anderson Handy
John has three children, John Handy, IV, b 1957, a drummer; two daughters, Almitra, an architect, b. 1973, and Elysia, b. 1983.
In the Vernacular (1959); No Coast Jazz (1960); Live at Monterey Jazz Festival (1965); The Second John Handy Album (1966); New View (1967); Projections (1968); Karuna Supreme (with Ali Akbar Khan, 1975); John Handy Hard Work (1976); with Ali Akbar Khan and L. Subramanian: Rainbow (1976 Excursion in Blue Harbor (1988);); Carnival (1976); Where Go the Boats (1977); Handy Dandy Man (1978); Centerpiece: John Handy with CLASS (1989); John Handy's Musical Dreamland (1991); Live at Yoshi's Nightspot (2000).
Charles Mingus Big Band: Alice's Wonderland (1958), Mingus Ah Uhm (1959), Blues and Roots (1959); Various Artists: From Spirituals to Swing (1967), Brass Fever (1977); Mingus Dynasty Group: 3 recordings, including Epitaph and Char in the Sky (1979-89); Ravi Shankar: JazzMine (1980);L. Subramanian: Garland (1981).
Radio, television and film:
John has been seen and heard on numerous radio, television, and film broadcasts in the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, and most of Europe, including the following highlights: movie sound track, "All About the Benjamins," (2002) features "Hard Work" by John Handy; television sound track, "The Bernie Mack Show," (2002) features "Hard Work" by John Handy; National Public Radio (NPR); BBC, Army Times, "Voices of America" - television; Black Entertainment Television (BET); Bell Telephone Hour, television
John has be the subject of numerous feature articles in reviews, magazines, books, and on the internet, including the following highlights: TV Guide, Downbeat Magazine (3), Jazz Times, Metronome, Esquire Magazine, Rondo Magazine, BAM Magazine, Time Magazine, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, San Jose Mercury News, "The Sound of Surprise (book), Whitney Ballet, "Jazz of the 70s" (book), numerous articles on the internet, and encyclopedias of jazz.
"John Handy, Saxophone" www.rfpresents.com/jhbio.html
"John Handy and Ali Akbar Khan: Meilensteine des Jazz," Rondo Magazine, Jan. 1998 www.rondomagazin.de/ ARCHIV/MEILENST/981.htm
"Bill Graham Lifetime Achievement Award: John Handy," by Larry Kelp, BAM Magazine, March 7, 1997
Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1997 "Handy's Blast From the Past Proves Timeless," by Don Heckman
Los Angeles Times, March 21, 1997 "All That Jazz: Handy and Co. to Revisit Monterey Success," by Don Heckman
Los Angeles Times, November 15, 1996 "Weston, Handy Reunite and 17 Years Fade Away," by Bill Kohlhaase
Sacramento Bee, April 19, 1996 "Turning Up The Heat," by William Glackin
Los Angeles Times, November 17, 1994 "Handy's Sax Vocabulary: Singing Highs and Rich Lows," by Bill Kohlhaase
San Francisco Chronicle, July 26, 1994 "John Handy Reunites His Legendary Quintet," by Jesse Hamlin
"John Handy Revisited", Phillip Elwood, Downbeat, October 1996
"John Handy and the Blues", Downbeat, May, 1967
"Handy '65: Back for More", Downbeat, November, 1994
"John Handy", JazzNotes, 1995
"No Better Jazz", San Jose Mercury News Sunday Magazine, August 11, 1995
"John Handy - San Francisco Giant," JazzNow, February, 1998
Awards and Honors:
Honored by San Francisco State University, his alma mater, on the occasion of its centennial celebration with the First Annual John Handy Jazz Festival, August 26-29, 1999.
Honored by Mayor Willie Brown and the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco with a declaration of August 28, 1999 as "John Handy Day in San Francisco."
Grammy Nomination for Performance and Composer/Arranger for recording of "John Handy Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival," 1966
Bill Graham Lifetime Achievement Award, Bay Area Music (BAM), 1997
"Bay Area Blues Society Hall of Fame," Inducted 1992
"Russian River Jazz Festival JazzNote Award," 1996
"Lifetime Achievement Award," San Jose Jazz Society, 1995
"Jazzie Award," Jazz on the Hill Festival, 1998
Contribution to the World of Music Award, McClymonds High School (Alma Mater), Oakland, California
Artistic Director, OaklandJazzThere Festival, 2000
Jazz Legends Award (1996) and Artist-in-Residence (1998-2000) in the Jazz Studies Program of the Music Department at San Francisco State University
New Orleans Mayor's Proclamation, 1967
Contribution to the Arts Award, San Francisco Board of Supervisors, 1998
Music Makers Award, San Francisco Music Center, College of Alameda, 1986
Honors Award, Allen Temple Baptist Church, 1998
Black History Month Award, College of the Siskiyous, California, 1998