Born in Oakland, California on September 25, 1962, Handy played guitar, trombone, and piano before he fell in love with the saxophone after hearing Dexter Gordon on the radio. “I was captivated by the deepness and the richness, the robustness of Gordon’s tone,” says Handy. “The directness of his ideas also impressed me.”
After participating in the renowned Berkeley High School jazz program—which also produced David Murray, Peter Apfelbaum, Benny Green, and Joshua Redman—Handy earned the highly competitive Charlie Parker Scholarship award which allowed him to study at North Texas State University. He attended North Texas for two and a half years, majoring in psychology and playing in the school’s prestigious One O’Clock Lab Band.
More recently, Handy appeared on two recordings for the “Chartbusters,” a band comprised of Handy, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith and drummer Idris Muhammad. Released in 1995 on the NYC label, the group’s first disc, the critically acclaimed “Chartbusters! Volume 1,” paid homage to the Blue Note records of the late ‘50s and ‘60s. “Mating Cal,” the groups second album which was co-produced by Handy, has been released by Prestige. In the fall of 1996, Handy can be seen on the big screen in the Robert Altman film titled “Kansan City,” portraying a character based on the late Coleman Hawkins. Also in 1996, Handy can be seen touring with one of the most prominent voices in modern jazz—pianist Herbie Hancock.