Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Houston Person: "A Veteran of A Vanishing Tenor Saxophone Generation"

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Recently, one of my Jazz buddies from an internet chat group asked those of us on the list who were familiar with his playing to provide more background information on Houston Person, a tenor saxophonist who was relatively new to her.

I thought I would provide my share of an answer to this query in the form of this blog posting, one that includes the usual concluding video with a sample of the profiled musician’s music.

“A blues oriented player with a large, warm sound" is the description of Houston Person given in Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler’s The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz.

Eddie Cook writes of him:

“He was born in Florence, South Carolina on November 10, 1934). Although he was taught piano by his mother as a child, he took little interest in music until he began collecting jazz recordings and playing tenor saxophone at the age of 17. During his military service in Germany he played in groups that included Eddie Harris, Lanny Morgan, Leo Wright, Cedar Walton, and Lex Humphries.

He attended the Hartt School of Music [West Hartford, Connecticut] and then toured with Johnny Hammond; from that time he showed a liking for working with organists. After leaving Hammond he formed his own group, which, with changing personnel, has made a number of recordings. He performed intermittently with Etta Jones from 1968 and from 1973 they worked together regularly, making nightclub and concert appearances.

Besides his recordings as a leader, Person has taken part in sessions as a sideman with Groove Holmes's quintet and Charles Earland, and in a duo with Ran Blake. In 1984 he performed at the Grande Parade du Jazz, Nice, France. The influence of rhythm-and-blues is evident in Person's direct, swinging style and full-toned sound; he performs blues and ballads with particular skill. [The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz].”

Eddie also authored an article about Houston that appeared in JazzJournal International:" 'I Just Like People who Swing': Houston Person," JJI, xxxviii/1 (1985).

Richard Cook and Brian Morton remark: “Person is in the Coleman Hawkins mold, a fine ballad player with a low, urgent tone.”

They go on to write:

“Though Person's Muse catalogue has not yet comeback on line [more of it has become available since this writing], his stock remains high as a forefather of the acid jazz movement, a linage explicitly celebrated on a Prestige compilation.

It's pretty straight ahead stuff: blaring brass, chugging organ, square-four rhythm and the beefy sound of Houston's tenor over the top; inexhaustible, reliable, seldom anything other than squarely on the beat and on the case.

The gospelly side of his playing personalty is surprisingly much in evidence on his dance-orientated sets. Let Every Voice And Sing on Legends has the power to bring a lump to the throat, and there are moments on his discs when Person, sounding like a latter-day Ike Quebec, negotiates some quite subtle interchanges with the rhythm players. One either goes for this aura! equivalent of soul food or one doesn't. … He is a veteran of a vanishing saxophone generation.” [The Penguin Guide of Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.

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