WBGO Radar

Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith

album cover of Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith

The Crescent City's brass band tradition gets a creative edge on tenor saxophonist Craig Handy's new release for the revitalized Okeh record label.

"2nd Line Smith" is not a person, but Handy's band: it's organist Kyle Koehler, guitarist Matt Cherktoff, sousaphone virtuoso Clark Gayton, and well-known New Orleans drummers Jason Marsalis, Herlin Riley and Ali Jackson.  This hot unit combines the repertoire of organ great Jimmy Smith with the lilting strut of New Orleans' parade-route revelers, who dance in what is called a Second Line. 

"A light went off in my head," says Handy, describing his epiphany of rhythm which led to the session. "I realized two of Jimmy's hits - "The Cat" and "Hi-Heeled Sneakers" used modified second-line rhythms." 

"I said, That's it - we'll do a Jimmy Smith record in the second-line vein,' he recalls. "And as New Orleans is a furnace for all things jazz, I saw no need to change my stripes to suit the style."

The disc's ten tracks include special guests Wynton Marsalis, who growls against the vocals of Clarence Spady on "Mojo Workin'," and Dee Dee Bridgewater, who shows us "The Sunny Side Of The Street." On "Minor Chant," the leader makes a major nod to Stanley Turrentine, one of his influences, along with Dexter Gordon and John Coltrane.

In its press materials, the Sony imprint says it offers "new dimensions, the sound of now!" This saxophonist shows us that in jazz, what's old can always be new in the hands of a master. With this January 21st release, Handy will delight his followers, and pick up more than a few new ones, I'm sure.

       - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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