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Jazz & John Handy
Spirit of John Handy — Jazz in the Pass
This Book sells for $15
When New Orleans was known as the Queen City of the Americas, it additionally became famous for its part in originating Jazz sounds that spread throughout the continent. Those roots of Jazz music was spearheaded by hundreds of Jazz personalities, many of them, then and now, have become celebrated throughout the world.
Little is known about Pass Christian’s involvement and its contributions by John Handy who became Internationally well known for his unique style and an extraordinary performer with an Alto Sax. Although late in life, he toured Europe and the Orient, during which time his music was recorded.
In April 1970, when the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival gave top billing to John Handy and Mahalia Jackson at its first annual showing. Captain John Handy lead his jazz group, “Handy’s Louisiana Shakers” into many of his well known recorded pieces.
At his death, more than 7000 people assembled at the first New Orleans style Jazz Funeral in January 1971. To commemorate him, the City of Pass Christian changed the name of Third Street to Handy Street, which is where the Handy family residence remains.
The Jazz Great was even greater than he was aware – he was even eulogized in Life Magazine and a special documentary was prepared by TV Channel 13 called the “Last Journey of a Jazz Man.”
But Handy was not alone in being recognized for talent. Joseph “Jobie” Jackson was a prominent pianist who arranged his own band calling upon many of the well known Negro musicians to play with his group.
Jeanette Salvant Kimbal, another superb pianist. As a composer, she and her husband wrote music and lyrics for several tunes, among which, “My Memphis Baby” is still played today by jazz bands. In 1980, she recorded an album under her name called, “Sophisticated Lady.” In her final years, she became the matron of Preservation Hall in New Orleans, where she played until retiring in the late 1990s.
The Watson Brothers also made up Jazz bands that played primarily at the local hotels along the Gulf Coast.
Jazz in the Pass was created as one of the projects promoted by the Tricentennial Committee when Dan Ellis served as its chairman. Because of her many contacts with Jazz Societies, Jennie Lou Mintz was chosen for Jazz in the Pass chairman and after its first successful year, she continued its promotion into an annual event of consequence.
Jazz in the Pass continues to hold forth on the Saturday before Mother’s Day Sunday at War Memorial Park. As an all-day event, it has become an integral part of Pass Christian’s heritage celebrations.