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ALL THAT JAZZ

Handy and Co. to Revisit Monterey Success

March 21, 1997|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Alto saxophonist John Handy's performance at the 1965 Monterey Jazz Festival was one of the memorable live jazz events of the decade. Like the Duke Ellington performance of "Diminuendo and Crescendo Blue" (with Paul Gonsalves' extraordinary tenor saxophone solo) at the Newport Jazz Festival a decade earlier, Handy's powerful appearance still registers in the memories of those fortunate enough to have been present.

The group--Handy on alto saxophone, Jerry Hahn on guitar, Mike White on violin, Don Thompson on bass and Terry Clarke on drums--performed a kind of precursor to fusion jazz, mixing some rock elements with modal improvisations, unusual instrumentation, long, stretched-out solos, and stunning, high harmonic-filled cadenzas from Handy. The effect upon the crowd was electrifying.

"Nobody was more surprised than we were," says Handy, 64, who has lived in San Francisco since the early '60s. "We were playing music that we had been developing and performing in small clubs for months. And usually to good response. We knew we were on to something, but we never expected it to have that sort of impact."

Not only was the crowd impacted. Charles Mingus, who had been Handy's employer in years before the festival, was scheduled to follow the Handy group on stage, and he reportedly did not react well to the crowd reaction.

"I think, in retrospect, that it really bothered him," says Handy. "Charles could be a very difficult person. I heard that he told one of his musicians that I had stolen his music, because one of the pieces was in a 6/8 rhythm. I hadn't, of course, but he was so annoyed that he had his musicians march on stage playing 'When the Saints Go Marching In.' "

A few months, ago, KOCH Jazz reissued the long-unavailable recording of Handy's festival performance. And, on March 29 and 30, Handy once again reunites the ensemble for an appearance at the Ash Grove, more than 30 years after they last played together in Los Angeles.

"We'll play the tunes we played at Monterey," he says, "but not at the same length, for sure, since those performances ran on for 20, 25 minutes. But it'll be a good show. This was a good band in 1965, and it's a good band today."

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Bach to Jazz: Eclectic jazz fans will remember the '60s "Play Bach" recordings of French pianist Jacques Loussier, who discovered some surprising linkages between jazz and Baroque music. "Jacques Loussier Plays Bach," his latest recording in the idiom and his first in decades, was released late last year on Telarc, and he now has followed up with a surprisingly imaginative rendering of the much-overdone "Four Seasons" by Vivaldi (also on Telarc). On April 5 and 6, Loussier and his trio perform in "Bach at the Beacon" in New York City, on a program that also includes the first stage appearance by "Switched on Bach" creator Wendy Carlos, and harpsichordist Anthony Newman. Tickets: (212) 307-7171.

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Cyberjazz: The quickest way to check the latest schedules for area jazz clubs is to log on to the Jazznet (http://www.jazznet). The site includes news and information as well as quick links to sites such as Catalina Bar & Grill, the Jazz Bakery, Steamers and the Playboy Jazz Festival. Updated regularly by cyberjazz maven Lee Cohen, Jazznet also offers easy links to other jazz sites around the Internet and push-button connections to the major jazz labels.

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Jazz at the Beach: The National Assn. of Jazz Artists, a new organization energized by producer-musician Al Williams, is holding a conference and awards show April 2-5 at the Sheraton Hotel and the Terrace Theatre in Long Beach. The conference includes clinics and workshops featuring, among others, Billy Higgins, Kenny Burrell, Ndugu Chancler, Buddy Collette, Oscar Brown Jr. and Teddy Edwards. The awards show, on April 5, lists Carroll O'Connor, Clifton Davis, Gerald Albright and Rita Coolidge among the presenters. There also will be a competition of high school and college jazz bands, a presentation of jazz films by archivist Mark Cantor, and numerous panels and seminars dealing with various aspects of the jazz business. (310) 436-7794.

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