George Handy: The Sleepwalker


The Sleepwalker


George Handy (composer, arranger)


Pensive (Fresh Sound FSR-CD438)

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George Handy (composer, arranger), Dick Sherman (trumpet), Frank Rehak (trombone), Gene Orloff (violin), Dave Schildkraut (alto sax), Ray Beckenstein (flute), Tommy Mace (oboe, tenor sax), Danny Bank (bass clarinet, baritone sax), Tony Aless (piano), Buddy Jones (bass), Osie Johnson (drums).

Recorded: New York, April 13, 1955


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

At this point in time it is safe to assume that the name George Handy is unlikely to be familiar to most jazz listeners, but from the late 40's and through the 50's he was considered one of the more "progressive" jazz composers. His best known recorded work was for the Boyd Raeburn band and his writing drew upon influences from 20th century classical music combined with Handy's solid background as a jazz pianist. Pieces such as "Dalvatore Sally", written for Raeburn, are rightly considered to be forerunners of so-called "Third Stream" music.

This track appeared on one of two albums Handy recorded for the prophetically obscure Label X in 1955. The main theme is stated ominously by oboe and bass clarinet in double-octave unison, after which the mood brightens every 8 bars through subtle interval manipulation until the theme takes on a conventionally bright boppish feeling. The ability to transform simple material in this manner is what distinguishes a composer from an arranger.

As on most composer-led sessions of the time, the solos are short and succinct with the emphasis on the writing. Aless sounds light and airy, Sherman warm and melodic, and the legendary Schildkraut is gritty and Bird-like. The writing sometimes crosses the line into a sort of contrived cuteness, but always changes gears before boredom can set in. If the cartoon music master Carl W. Stalling had written bebop, it might have sounded something like what Handy has done here.

Reviewer: Kenny Berger


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