REPOST: George Handy Asked 66 Years Ago: “Are you DIGGIN’ DIZ ?”

Wait a minute, dear boppin’ folks … ’cause before we’re coming to that, first listen to the source of the question, namely Rodgers’ & Hart’s LOVER, as played here by the very nicely boppin’ Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra ’round 1949.

I love that chart! And I dig Jimmy’s alto very much. Young Maynard Ferguson can be heard on trumpet.

George Handy? — Who? — I’m gonna tell you: George Handy was one of the most creative composers & arrangers in jazz.

His work can truly be called “Great Americana” at its finest; Handy’s music was influenced by Copeland (who was his teacher), Ellington and …

… Stravinsky. — Yeah! Dig that, folks!

Why his name doesn’t pop up more often in the hall-of-fame listings of great American (jazz) composers/ arrangers may be due to the fact that his most interesting works came out before the introduction of the long playing record: 1945, 1946 & 1947.

Among his many excellent original compositions like “Tonsilectomy” (sic!) – where he inserted a famous Dizzy Gillespie phrase in the initial chart for a small band – one tune stands out as a monolithic bebop masterpiece: Diggin’ Diz.

We can be very happy that the microphone was on during the only surviving (rehearsal) take of a very chaotic, but initial Bird-on-Dial recording session from February 5, 1946:


Not many words by yours truly anymore, here are the original liners from the above album (click to enlarge):

More about George Handy can be read HERE

As a mighty P.S. another boppin’ Lover-paraphrase by Tadd Dameron:


Fats Navarro (tp) J.J. Johnson (tb) Budd Johnson (as) Coleman Hawkins (ts) Marion DiVeta (bars) Hank Jones (p) Chuck Wayne (g) Jack Lesberg (b) Max Roach (d) Tadd Dameron (arr) – NYC, December 11, 1947

Feel free to listen to one of his most beautiful arrangements; it’s Hoagy Carmichael’s “Memphis In June” (David Allyn introduces Ginnie Powell who did the main vocal), recorded for Standard Transcriptions in LA, December 1945:

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