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Craig Handy: Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith

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Craig Handy is one of the strongest saxophone sidemen in jazz. He waited until he had a good reason to make his first record as a leader in 14 years. The idea is this: Get an organ combo together; revisit 10 numbers from the Jimmy Smith songbook; invite heavyweight guests, most from New Orleans. (Smith likes New Orleans second-line rhythms.)

The ingredients ignite. Handy’s band (Kyle Koehler, B-3; Matt Chertkoff, guitar; Clark Gayton, sousaphone) kicks ass, and the guests catch the vibe. “On the Sunny Side of the Street” is a jubilant scatting celebration by Dee Dee Bridgewater. Smith’s 1965 version of “Got My Mojo Workin'” had a riffing, kicking horn section, his own vocal, and a monster organ workout. Handy’s ambitious redo has a better blues singer, Clarence Spady. For horns, it has no less than Wynton Marsalis, deep in Big Easy character, squalling and rasping, and Handy himself, wildly trilling, rocking the house.

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