Recent Listening (And Viewing): Zoot, Dog, Woman & Handy

It’s a pleasure to run into old friends in places where you don’t expect them. Yesterday, I encountered Zoot Sims in a dog food commercial. He was in good company; a cute pooch and a beautiful woman.

The music was “Blinuet,” one of several pieces George Handy wrote for the 1956 ABC Parmount album Zoot Sims Plays Alto, Tenor and Baritone. If you would like to hear all of “Blinuet” and the rest of that sterling collection, you’ll find it on a CD reissue called That Old Feeling. The disc also includes the Argo quartet session called Zoot. They were recorded a month apart with the same rhythm section; pianist John Williams, bassist Knobby Totah and drummer Gus Johnson. Here is some of what I wrote in the notes for that 1995 reissue:

One of the great writing talents of the 1940s, Handy did sensational work for the Boyd Raeburn band. His arrangements of pieces like “Dalvatore Sally,” Tonsillectomy” and “There’s No You” were some of the most important writing of the bebop era. But from
George Handy.jpgthe mid-forties to the mid-fifties little was heard from or known about Handy except for the extended work called “The Bloos,” recorded in 1946 but not released until 1949 as part of Norman Granz’s ambitious album, The Jazz Scene. There was a renewed flurry of interest in Handy after he made two albums under his own name for Label “X” in 1955 and teamed up with Sims for the alto-tenor-baritone session in November, 1956, and another ABC Paramount date, Zoot Sims Plays Four Altos, in January, 1957. Since then, Handy has been inactive in jazz. His work with Zoot is particularly valuable as one of the few bodies of evidence of his great talent.

2008 update: Handy re-emerged in the mid-1960s to compose for the New York Saxophone Quartet. He wrote a few record reviews for Down Beat in the late sixties. He died in 1997 at the age of seventy-seven. Handy’s biography at the Institute for Studies in American Music web site describes him as an “enigmatic iconoclast.” The label is justified.

I hope that Handy’s and Zoot’s estates are collecting royalties from the dog food people.

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  1. Bert Hellsten says

    Your comments about George Handy were priceless, since I finally got signposted to the correct Zoot Sims albums. I have known that there where some, but I couldn’t get confirmation about which ones.Needless to say I’m a great Handy fan as well as a Raeburn one. That early third stream music (if that is what it is) is becoming quite a favourite. If I could get an idea of what was recorded by the New York Saxophone quartet, composed by Handy, my cup will surely runneth over.