New Orleans brass bands and organ-tenor sax jazz combos are two traditions that had pretty much fallen off the radar screen until they experienced recent revivals. With Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith, the Oakland-born, Berkeley-reared tenor and soprano saxophonist — best known for his work with Herbie Hancock and for playing the role of tenor pioneer Coleman Hawkins in the 1994 Robert Altman film Kansas City — ingeniously combines the sousaphone patterns and second-line drum rhythms of Crescent City parade bands with the organ-tenor-guitar instrumentation of small groups that were once staples of the jazz chitlin circuit. He then takes this funky two-way-pocky-way fusion a step further by applying it to ten tunes associated with the late organ master Jimmy Smith.
Handy largely sets aside the hard-bop style with which he’s been associated in favor of a simpler yet deeply soulful, more blues-imbued approach inspired by onetime Smith sideman Stanley Turrentine. And instead of bass lines usually played by an organist, Clark Gayton blows bouncing bottoms through his sousaphone. Three of the world’s most gifted New Orleans drummers — Ali Jackson, Jason Marsalis, and Herlin Riley — alternate playing deliciously syncopated parade beats, primarily on snare drum. Handy, organist Kyle Koehler, and guitarist Matt Chertkoff take turns soloing on a program that includes such Smith favorites as “Organ Grinder’s Swing,” “Got My Mojo Working,” and “Hi-Heel Sneekers.” Jason’s trumpet-playing brother Wynton and singers Dee Dee Bridgewater and Clarence Spady join the festivities for one song apiece. (OKeh)