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Bebop - Released July 26, 2019 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released June 17, 2016 | HighNote Records

Saxophonist Houston Person and bassist Ron Carter have a duo partnership that goes back at least as far as their two 1990 recordings, Something in Common and Now's the Time! Since those albums, the legendary artists have released several more duo collaborations, each one a thoughtful and minimalist production showcasing their masterful command of jazz standards, blues, and bop. The duo's 2016 effort, the aptly titled Chemistry, is no exception and once again finds Person and Carter communing over a well-curated set of jazz standards. As on their previous albums, Chemistry is a deceptively simple conceit; just two jazz journeymen playing conversational duets on well-known jazz songs. At face value, that is certainly what you get. The deception enters into the equation with just how masterful and nuanced Person and Carter are in each song. Whether it's the way Carter anchors the duo's yearning reading of "But Beautiful" with his languorous, doomy basslines, or the way Person's languorous rubato introduction joins up with Carter on "Fools Rush In," they never fail to find surprising and deeply emotive ways to interpret each song. Similarly, cuts like the poignant "Blame It on My Youth" and the dewy-eyed "I Can't Get Started" are endearing romantic numbers that cradle the listener in the warmth of Person and Carter's warm tones. Elsewhere, they deliver a gleeful version of Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk," and summon the memory of Carter's former boss, trumpeter Miles Davis, with their jaunty take on "Bye Bye Blackbird." Ultimately, Chemistry is a lovely, heartfelt album of well-loved standards imbued with the duo's decades of experience. ~ Matt Collar

Bebop - Released September 8, 2009 | HighNote Records

The Art & Soul of Houston Person is a unique compilation. The great saxophonist has recorded as a leader for labels such as Prestige, 20th Century, Muse, Savant, and is currently with High Note, where this appears. His tenure at Prestige is the only one longer than this one. As such, this massive, three-disc collection is drawn from a dozen High Note albums cut in as many years. The unifying factor in these cuts is that they were not chosen randomly to include simply stellar performances, but from his wide-ranging interpretations on standards; in addition, they were all recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at his studios in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. There are 30 performances in all, including four that open disc one which are all new takes on tunes he'd tracked previously, but this time out with his current quartet of pianist John di Martino, bassist Jon Burr, and drummer Jerome Jennings. Some of the other players on this comp include pianists Bill Charlap, Stan Hope, and Richard Wyands, bassists Ray Drummond, Ron Carter, Per-Ola Gadd, Peter Washington, and George Kaye, drummers Grady Tate, Chip White, and Kenny Washington, and guitarists Russell Malone and Paul Bollenback. The readings of these tunes make for a very unified collection because no matter who the personnel are and what gifts they bring to the table, Person has a way of playing songs that not only retain their melody, but their melodic integrity; his is simply not interested in employing them as frameworks for showboat improvisation. His own inventiveness is in how warm and dignified a melodist he is. He sings through the horn with the emotional commitment of Ben Webster, the soul of Gene Ammons, and the studied elegance of Paul Quinichette and Frank Wess. Listeners will have a great time picking their favorites out of this morass of excellent material, but it is safe to say that Person makes virtually all of it compelling -- there isn't a dull second here. Whether it's "Sentimental Journey,"and "All The Things You Are," or "Blue Moon" and "Mack the Knife," these sides are drenched in classy sophistication and down-home soul. Highly recommended. ~ Thom Jurek

Bebop - Released November 10, 2017 | HighNote Records


Bebop - Released September 17, 1999 | HighNote Records


Bebop - Released September 18, 1998 | HighNote Records


Bebop - Released April 7, 2000 | HighNote Records


Bebop - Released May 6, 2008 | HighNote Records


Bebop - Released June 21, 2002 | HighNote Records


Bebop - Released October 9, 2012 | HighNote Records


Bebop - Released August 1, 2006 | HighNote Records


Jazz - Released December 16, 1996 | Prestige

Houston Person was among the guttiest of the gutbucket saxophonists of the soul-jazz golden age -- for proof, look no further than Legends of Acid Jazz: Houston Person, which compiles two of the saxman's most popular releases, Person to Person! and Houston Express (both originally released in 1970). Express featured the "funkmaster general" of the tenor saxophone with a tight, pocket-sized ensemble (including guitarist Grant Green and drummer Idris Muhammad), while, on Person!, his supporting ensemble expanded to include trumpet players Cecil Bridgewater and Thad Jones, guitarist Billy Butler and another kindred spirit and prince of funk on his instrument, Motown bassist Gerry Jemmott. Legends of Acid Jazz: Houston Person provides a high-voltage cover version extravaganza, including "(For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People" (the Chi-Lites), "Close to You" (the Carpenters), "Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yester-Day" (Stevie Wonder), "Young, Gifted and Black" (Aretha Franklin), "Just My Imagination" (the Temptations), and "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which Person describes in his liner notes as the "black national anthem." Person and friends turn every one of these, and others such as his own "Up at Joe's, Down at Jim's" and his trademark "The Houston Express" into stinging, swinging, original-sounding opuses of funk. ~ Chris Slawecki

Bebop - Released October 21, 2014 | HighNote Records


Bebop - Released October 22, 2013 | HighNote Records


Bebop - Released October 23, 2015 | HighNote Records


Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Azica Records


Bebop - Released November 15, 2001 | HighNote Records


Bebop - Released October 23, 2009 | HighNote Records

Not all mellow, Houston Person's tribute to the softer side of jazz has its moments based on the laid-back timbre of his soul rather than a program consisting of only ballads. The tenor sax he wields certainly reflects the tradition established by Ben Webster in its soul-drenched tone, but is not as vocally pronounced or vibrato-driven. The quite capable pianist John Di Martino is the one whose more enunciated notions are harnessed, while tasteful guitar by the underrated James Chirillo rings out in acceptance of Person's embraceable hues. In a program of standards and two blues jams, Person rounds into shape this quintet of true professionals to render themes that are harder to play slow than fast. The slower material includes the regretful, throaty ballad "Too Late Now," the totally restrained "To Each His Own," a poignant "Two Different Worlds," and the deep, mature take of "God Bless the Child." Ever cognizant of blue moods, Person is masterful in expressing his innermost heartfelt feelings, as on the easy swinger and obvious choice for this date, Duke Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone." Then there's "Blues in the A.M.," a basic jam with Ray Drummond's bass leading out with drummer Lewis Nash in an uptown style as Chirillo's guitar states its wise, sophisticated case. The most upbeat number is the closer, the fast hard bop three-minute quickie "Lester Leaps In," while in midtempo form, the opener, Bobby Hebb's "Sunny," is a typical choice. Conversely, the usual ballad "Who Can I Turn To?" is a bit amped up. Di Martino and Chirillo are known to kick things up several notches, but here are great tastemakers who fully understand Person's persona and growing importance as one who prefers an understated approach. That's not to say this marvelous tenor saxophonist has depreciated his talent as an adept technician, but at this point in his career he prefers this music on the mellow side, and has no problem staying interested in that mood, no matter the tempo. ~ Michael G. Nastos

Bebop - Released October 5, 2010 | HighNote Records


Bebop - Released March 15, 1997 | HighNote Records

Most of Houston Person's late-'90s albums are interchangeable collections of standards recorded with a small combo (the rhythm section led by either a piano or an organ, depending on Person's whim) and featuring Person's sterling tenor saxophone solos on top of a conservative backing. 1997's Person-ified is one of the string, but it's more interesting than some due to a slightly more adventurous taste in song selection. The track listing still leans heavily toward standards, but this time, Person has reached a bit deeper than usual into the great songbooks, coming up with somewhat less-obvious choices like "There's a Small Hotel," "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning," and "I'll Never Stop Loving You," all of which are excellent. Even oddball choices like Mr. Acker Bilk's novelty trad jazz hit "Stranger on the Shore" and the gospel-tinged coda "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You" sound great. His backing combo is fairly anonymous, but never simply dull, and even at that, it means that Person's remarkable, underrated tenor playing is always front and center. Not bad at all. ~ Stewart Mason