The Jazz Crusade Audio Sampler Catalog
JCCD-3073: Captain John Handy's New Orleans All-Star Band-1st Half

Personnel: Captain John Handy [alto sax]; Punch Miller [trumpet]; Homer Eugene [trombone], Andrew Morgan [tenor sax, clarinet]; Dick Wellstood [piano]; Sylvester Handy [string bass]; Lester Alexis [drums]

Songs: Exactly Like You, Blue Skies, Blueberry Hill, Eh! La Bas, Tiger Rag, On the Sunny Side of the Street, Perdido, The Sheik of Araby, Tuck Me to Sleep In My Old Kentucky Home, Handy's Boogie, St. Louis Blues

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Reviews for:
JCCD-3073: Captain John Handy's New Orleans All-Star Band-1st Half

AMG Expert Review - U. S. A.

- Dave Nathan

Cadence Magazine - U. S. A.

These two compact discs represent music heard one evening during the spring of 1970. This collective of New Orleans stalwarts, in addition to a young Dick Wellstood, played before an audience of the Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club and share over two hours worth of Traditional Jazz with the loyalists. To be sure, the presentation of this music here, appearing for the first time, will likely serve as a bit of a dream for revivalists. After all, at the time of this recording, many of the players here were in their seventies and while some are clearly past their prime, these musicians still show those whip-persnappers a thing or two (unfortunately, both Handy and Miller passed away a year after these recordings). As a whole, this concert is guaranteed to bring a smile to many faces, as good humor and fun abounds. This is a rousing, freewheeling concert presenting rollicking versions of many great Trad Jazz standards, and yes, even "When The Saints Go Marching In" is included.
Captain John Handy is notable for his choice of instrument, the alto saxophone. It is not generally one heard in Trad Jazz circles and even more interesting is his tone. He employs a soulful, R&B sound that reveals that he is influenced by more
"modern" approaches. His wide vibrato technique also suggests ties with the great Sidney Bechet (although a very different player, Johnny Hodges might be a starting point of reference for the Bechet connection). Handy originally started out on the clarinet in the '20s and then switched to alto, becoming somewhat known in the 1950's and especially after the introduction of the Preservation Hall Band, of which Handy was a member. His greatest asset is not his solo ideas, although he shines particularly on "On The Sunny Side of The Street." Rather, he is most interesting during the ensemble passages, where his vibrato-laden alto twists and floats around the other members' lines. Although he gets top billing here, he is not necessarily this recording's only star. In fact, all ensemble members make significant contributions to the evening's performance.
While these New Orleans musicians may technically be going through the motions here, having performed these songs probably a thousand times, there are plenty of hot solos. For instance, the old war-horse "Tiger Rag" gets an exciting treatment with swinging ensemble playing, with Handy's patriotic references, including "Yankee Doodle Dandy." Both "Joe Avery's Place" and "Saints" demonstrate the excitement that contrapuntal New Orleans music can generate, both for the listener and the players themselves. Also, as mentioned, there is almost constant clapping and clamoring for more.
As for the others, trumpeter Punch Miller demonstrates that, while he may be past his prime, he still has plenty of spunk and a stream of ideas left to bring to the table. He offers a great deal of excitement here, particularly during the vocal tracks, including a lyrically enhanced "Exactly Like You." Andrew Morgan plays the primary role of being the chief inspiration throughout. When he is not playing one of several instruments, he is constantly clapping, whooping, and hollering in encouragement to the others. His showcase number "On The Sunny Side of The Street, typifies his festive attitude. His circular breathing on "St. Louis Blues" demonstrates that even in the twilight of his career, he still had plenty to share with the faithful (note that he ends each tenor sax solo with a honk, effectively "giving the people what they want!"). Homer Eugene also contributes strong trombone solos, even taking a banjo solo on "Blue Skies." Dick Wellstood, the youngun' of the group, provides convincing accompaniment throughout, particularly strong on the boogie woogie-flavored "Shuffle Boogie" and the bluesy "Blueberry Hill." Bassist Sylvester Handy and Drummer Lester Alexis round out the show, providing a steady driving rhythm, particularly Alexis's marching band snare and bass combo that rallies the troops.
Audiophiles take note: the tapes are not in perfect shape. There are moments of phase shifting, strange tape splices, as well as moments of mono fidelity. However, fans of this music will most likely be able to look past such minor quibbles, as these issues do not take away from the overall impact of these performances.
Although over two hours of Trad Jazz may be quite a bit to take for some listeners, the performances heard here are about a celebration and thus, the lively atmosphere is hard to resist. Sure, they might not always be in tune or play the music with the utmost precision. However, this group of old timers are not resting on their laurels or simply coasting, but providing a crowd pleasing performance for the faithful.
- Jay Collins

JazzGazzette.com - Internet Magazine

I had heard some of these Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club concerts at the home of Pete Campbell in Woodbury, CT. and ever since those days I've been looking forward to have them in my collection. Those were still the golden days of New Orleans jazz with many of the original musicians still alive and kicking. Today in 2003, it is wonderful to have more than two unissued hours of music by some of New Orleans' finest musicians.
Listening to this CD I realised this was a quite sophisticated bunch of performers. Looking at their careers it was obvious they were. Trumpet player Ernest "Punch" Miller had a long and busy career including many years in Chicago and New York before he returned to New Orleans late 1956. In the twenties he was considered as serious competition to Louis Armstrong. Later on he played in carnival shows, circus bands and even rock 'n' roll revues. After a serious illness in 1959 he became very active again in his native city. He was leading his own band at Preservation Hall and toured Japan with George Lewis. He was almost 76 at the time of this recording, but still in superb shape. He died at the end of the following year. His playing at this concert still featured the long, flowing lines so typical for him and his singing was exciting and cheerful.
On trombone was Wendell Eugene's older brother Homer born in 1914. Whenever Wendell, now 79 and still active in New Orleans, is complimented for his playing his answer is: "You should have heard my brother Homer." Homer not only played trombone, but banjo, guitar and saxophone as well. As far as I know he never recorded on the sax, but he can be heard on amplified guitar at the famous Barnes/Bocage Big Five session of 1954 and on banjo at a Kid Howard Icon session. Like Louis Nelson he also played trombone with a big band (Lucky Millinder) and recorded on this instrument with a.o. Peter Bocage's Creole Serenaders (Riverside and Mono) and with Albert "Papa" French. On my first trip to New Orleans in 1977 I heard him with Kid Thomas at Preservation Hall and was impressed by his elegant but forceful playing. Homer was a real dandy with his latin-lover looks and his colourful dressing. In contrast with his colleagues at the Hall who mostly wore black suits, Homer came one day in an outfit of different shades of green, the next day in different shades of red and pink, very colourful but also very tasteful. When I returned to the city the next year I found out he had suffered a stroke and was unable to play. He was still in good spirits and later on I interviewed him and wrote a double biographical article on him and his brother Wendell which appeared in Footnote and may be one day reprinted in this magazine. His playing on this CD shows technical facility and imagination. He can be heard soloing on banjo on "Blue Skies". Because of his relatively few recordings this addition to his discography is more than welcome!
On tenor sax and clarinet we have Andrew Morgan (1903-1972) of the famous Sam Morgan Band that recorded those 8 exciting sides for Columbia in 1927. Together with alto sax player Earl Fouché he proved once and for all at this historical session that there WAS room for saxophones in a New Orleans band. At the end of his career he was a regular at Preservation Hall. He toured and recorded with Barry Martyn in Europe. At this concert in Connecticut he is heard mostly on tenor sax. Unlike Manny Paul's his vigorous playing shows influences of the early Coleman Hawkins. His beautiful low register clarinet can be heard on "Just A Closer Walk With Thee", which he also sings with great feeling. Andrew Morgan too wasn't recorded as often as he deserved. These two hours of fine music are an important addition to his recorded legacy.
I quote my good friend Brian Wood, who says in his informative liner notes to these CDs: "What can be said about Capt. John Handy that hasn't been said before?" This remarkable musician's playing fitted different kinds of music without him changing his own very personal style. He was as well at home in a mainstream group (remember one of his two RCA Victor LPs in company of a bunch of swing musicians!), a rhythm & blues outfit (the Louisiana Shakers) as in a traditional New Orleans style band. He stood model for a lot of today's New Orleans style saxophone players. Listening to him on these CDs, the story that he had an influence on Earl Bostic's style looks completely true to me. Captain John died in January 1971, so this might be his last recording. Watch out for how he incorporates "The Stars And Stripes Forever" in his solo on "Tiger Rag"! Listen, on the other hand, to his delicate playing on the dirge version of "Just A Closer Walk With Thee".
Pianist Dick Wellstood is the only musician on this session not coming from New Orleans. He was born in Connecticut and started his musical career with Bob Wilber's Wildcats with whom he recorded with Sidney Bechet. He doesn't play many solos at this concert and I presume that was his own choice. His work behind the others is exemplary. He follows every move the soloist makes. He solos with great effect on "Shuffle Boogie" and "The Saints".
On bass we have Captain John's brother Sylvester, another one who didn't record too much. The reason for this has nothing to do with the quality of his playing, but most probably more with him being a non-union musician. Barry Martyn recorded him with his own band for his Mono label. Those who want to hear more of him should listen to the session on Mono or to one of the first Icon sessions, the one with Punch Miller and John Handy (on clarinet!), now on American Music CD AMCD-52 and AMCD-67 respectively.
Least recorded of all was drummer Lester Alexis. His simple but effective playing can be heard clearly throughout this concert. At a private party in New Orleans, where the expected drum kit hadn't shown up, I heard him play a complete and exciting drum part on only snare and bass drum. Lester (born 1898) was the younger brother of trumpet player and bass player Ricard Alexis.
A lot of the material played at this concert belongs to the category "old war horses", but let's not forget these musicians were the ones who established this repertory. Nevertheless there are some unexpected items turning up like "Nagasaki", "Perdido" (a composition by Ellington trombonist Juan Tizol), Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" and "Tuck Me To Sleep" a favourite of Punch Miller.These two CD's not only contain historical important material, but are a joy to listen to from start to finish.
- Marcel Joly

Mississippi Rag - U. S. A.

Before you look askance at a New Orleans band with a saxophone section and a repertoire which includes material like Juan Tizol's "Perdido," you should read the liner notes Brian Woods wrote to go with volume one of this two-CD set. You will find that in the collection of musician's business cards in the New Orleans Jazz Museum most musicians do not identify themselves as "jazz musicians" but proclaim they play "music for all occasions." Let's also remember that the manager of Reisenweber's New York Restaurant admonished the patrons that the music of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band was music for dancing. I don't know if there was a dance floor at the Materese Restaurant in Newington, Conn., or if it was put to use by those attending the Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club event there on May 7,1970, but if there was no dancing, there should have been. And as for "Perdido > "remember that it was also in the book of Louis Armstrong's All Stars.
This is a classic New Orleans jazz/dance band. The musicians have a New Orleans jazz pedigree; they include Andrew Morgan, brother of Sam Morgan and Isaiah Morgan, trumpeter/singer Punch Miller, pianist Dick Wellstood and leader/alto saxophone stylist Captain John Handy.
Captain Handy was a veteran New Orleans musician. His biography in The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz lists the bands of Kid Howard, Jim Robinson, Lee Collins, Charles Creath, The Young Tuxedo Brass Band and Preservation Hall. If his sound and style remind you of the King of Jump Jazz, Louis Jordan, that shouldn't surprise anyone. For years the cream of the crop of New Orleans musicians have walked that thin line between the rhythm and blues of Fats Domino and the classic New Orleans jazz of Storyville. And Louis Jordan himself was a member of the Charlie Gaines band that made records with Louis Armstrong in 1932. Jordan also recorded with Satchmo again in 1950 when Decca Records paired them on a double feature recording of "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You."
For yours truly, the major joy of these two CDs is another recorded example of the singing and trumpet of Ernest "Punch" Miller. Despite the fact that Punch was in the twilight of his career (he was to die on December 2, 1971), there was still enough energetic drive left to lift his playing far above the ordinary. So, once you get past the culture shock of a band that plays both "Perdido" and "Bourbon Street Parade," just sit back and enjoy a good two hours of New Orleans R & B and jazz crossover.
- Joe Klee

Jazz Journal International - British Jazz Magazine

The Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club organised many concerts featuring visitors up from New Orleans, often with the results captured on record. Among these the so-called December band (under Jim Robinson's nominal leadership) is rightly hailed as an outstanding example. This group, also recorded at a live event, again features Captain John Handy; it has its moments but it is no December band. By comparison it lacks atmosphere, thanks to a dry acoustic which sometimes makes the musicians seem strangers to each other. Handy is on his best form, but the lack of presence in the recording reduces his powerful impact and also puts Andrew Morgan very much in the background on both clarinet and tenor sax. Punch Miller is his usual ebullient, athletic self despite being very close to the end of his life, and when he is good he is very good; but his playing quite often comes a bit unstuck while Homer Eugene's raw, wry style suffers from the overall lack of resonance-as does the whole ensemble effect. The rhythm section is effective, with Dick Wellstood contributing some very attractive and supportive piano \work in the back-ground,V and it is also good to nbve a rare chance to hear the lively drumming of Lester Alexis-though Sylvester Hanov's bass is almost inaudible. At\times there is some inspiring interplay between the front-liners, but at other times the lack of cohesion is compounded by the sharp sound and poor balance. With all its faults, understandable in an extempore live recordings, as a record of times and heroes long departed this will be welcomed by New Orleans enthusiasts, especially as illuminated by Brian Wood's historically informative notes. The two CDs, of which the first is marginally the better, are available separately.
- Christopher Hillman