John Handy: Spanish Lady

Mingus at Monterey 1964. John Handy at Monterey 1965. Charles Lloyd at Monterey 1966. In those years, the Monterey Jazz Festival was the place to be, if only for these three sensational performances. Handy, on tenor, was there with Mingus the year before, and in 1965 it was his turn to bring the house down. His group played two long tunes: the 26-minute "If Only We Knew" and the 19-minute "Spanish Lady," at the end of which the audience was applauding and whistling ecstatically. The latter track has an intense flamenco-flavored ambiance from beginning to end. Handy's hypnotic unaccompanied opening statement, brimming with vocalized exclamations, stirring tremolos and effective upper-register phrasings, leads into a remarkable section driven by Hahn's propulsive strummed guitar and Clarke's unrelentingly creative and supportive drum work. Handy's swift and compelling riffs build things to a rousing climax, after which White solos on his amplified violin with a sound evocative of his own cited influences, Stuff Smith and Ray Nance, but much more modern and harmonically challenging in approach, with endlessly varied effects played with great passion and invention. Hahn's backing of White, and his own subsequent solo, are both astonishing, especially his convoluted and often surprising runs. Handy returns with more of the same, his alto sounding almost guitar-like, with Hahn, Thompson, Clarke, and finally White going full-throttle as they help Handy bring the piece to its highly dramatic resolution.

April 01, 2008 · 2 comments


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