In the 1990s, Houston Person kept the soulful thick-toned tenor tradition of Gene Ammons alive, particularly in his work with organists. After learning piano as a youth, Person switched to tenor. While stationed in Germany with the Army, he played in groups that also included Eddie Harris, Lanny Morgan, Leo Wright, and Cedar Walton. Person picked up valuable experience as a member of Johnny Hammond's group (1963-1966) and became a bandleader in the following years, often working with singer Etta Jones. A duo recording with Ran Blake was a nice change of pace, but most of Person's playing has been done with blues-oriented organ groups. He recorded a consistently excellent series of albums for Muse, eventually switching to HighNote Records for 2006's You Taught My Heart to Sing, 2007's Thinking of You, and 2008's Just Between Friends, which featured bassist Ron Carter. Released in 2012, Naturally, recorded at the famed Van Gelder Recording Studio, teamed Person with Cedar Walton on piano, Ray Drummond on bass, and Lewis Nash on drums. He quickly returned with the similarly inclined 2013 effort Nice 'n' Easy, followed a year later by The Melody Lingers On. Person then delivered the rootsy and soulful Something Personal in 2015. In 2016, the saxophonist once again paired with bassist Carter for the duo album Chemistry. The following year saw Person issue the soulful Rain or Shine, which marked his 50th year as a combo leader. ~ Scott Yanow
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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
Soul - Released February 3, 2018 | Ace Records
Houston Person followed Bob Porter from Prestige to Westbound but before the tenor saxophonist could cut his first record for his new label Porter left Westbound, leaving Person on his own to produce '75. Originally titled '74 -- a title also given to a bunch of other Westbound jazz albums -- '75 was cut with an anonymous bunch of Detroit session musicians and it could be argued that the album itself is somewhat anonymous, finding the saxophonist aiming straight for the R&B charts. Always a full-bodied, groove-oriented player, this straight-up soul isn't much of a stretch for Person but the rhythms are frequently funkier than in the past and the surface is certainly slicker, sounding so clean it's almost possible to see your reflection in it. Often, the album is better when it doubles down on this gauche sound, such as the discotheque spangle of "500 Gin Rummy," cop-show funk of "A Touch of Bad Stuff," or satin seduction of "All in Love Is Fair." These are the tracks that show how stiff the cover of "Shotgun" is, and while they're certainly not for purists, they provide a good time capsule of the smooth but funky sounds of 1975. Person didn't straighten out his soul-jazz on Get Out'a My Way!, something that the very name of its opening cut makes plain. Called "Disco Sax," it's a bit of a Van McCoy hustle, complete with anonymous backup singers insisting that we should listen to the disco sax, and it sets the tone for a record that happily rides every mid-'70s trend they could find. Usually, this means some variation on disco -- even with its fuzz-toned Isley guitars, "Ain't Nothin' But a Funky Song" leans more toward the dancefloor than a funk workout -- but there's also a fair amount of exceptionally smooth romantic material that functions as the cool flip side of the disco workouts that take up the rest of the record. Although these period threads do have their charms, Get Out'a My Way! can get quite silly -- with its not quite herky-jerky rhythms and cooing background vocals, "Spread It" is the pinnacle of goofiness -- which is why it's ultimately not quite as satisfying a groove album as its Westbound companion, but anybody with a yen for exceptionally polished funky soul-jazz of the mid-'70s should find it worth a spin. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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