George Handy (born George Joseph Hendleman) (January 17, 1920 – January 8, 1997) was a jazz music arranger, composer and pianist whose musical beginnings were fostered under the tutelage of pianist Aaron Copland. While he had an impressive career as a pianist, he is best known in retrospect for his bebop arrangements.
Born in New York City, Handy first worked professionally as a swing pianist for Michael Loring in 1938, but soon was drafted into the United States Army in 1940. From 1944 – 1946 he became a member of the Boyd Raeburn Orchestra, composing and performing on piano. This was during a time when many big bands were transforming their musical tendencies toward bebop. He did leave the orchestra briefly to do work for Paramount Studios, but returned to Raeburn quickly. During this period he entered one of his most creative periods, doing arrangements of older standards with a distinctly bebop quality. Just as he was entering his prime, however, he had a falling out with Raeburn and left the group. While he continued to arrange for other musicians in his later career, it is that 1944 – 1946 period for which he is remembered most.
By Dean Hanley
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