Jazz CD Reviews

Houston Person – Naturally – High Note

As dependable as Winter rain in Oregon…

Published on October 23, 2012

Houston Person – Naturally – High Note

Houston Person – Naturally – High Note HCD 7245, 52:23 ****½:

(Houston Person, tenor sax; Cedar Walton, piano; Ray Drummond, bass; Lewis Nash, drums)

When reviewing a new CD by Houston Person, you can take certain things as a given. As right as rain, Houston’s warm muscular tone will jump out at you. Much like the late great Gene Ammons, and Ben Webster, Houston is old school tenor. His playing does not push the envelope, he caresses the melody, and his sensuous vibrato puts you in a good mood. Person makes it seem effortless, as he can make an Hammond B-3 session that much more soulful, or round out a piano trio to a funky quartet.

He has led over 75 sessions since the 1960s and has played with just about all the mainstream and soul jazz mainstays. Person backed Etta Jones for many years and made her vocal albums just that much more special.

On Naturally, we get the privilege of having the inimitable Rudy Van Gelder handle the engineering, mixing, and mastering duties at the RVG studios in Englewood, NJ, so you know there will be no missteps behind the board. In making this session (recorded in one day: July 5, 2012) how can you truly need any more time when you have a rhythm section of Cedar Walton, Ray Drummond, and Lewis Nash!

Song selection is beyond reproach – standards of Ellington, Jacquet, Milt Jackson, Johnny Mercer, etc., so you just set up the equipment and let the masters go to work. When the day is done (I can’t imagine that you’d need anymore than one or two takes), Rudy can power down the equipment and then do his thing.

From the opening “Bag’s Groove” to the closing “Sunday” with visits to “My Foolish Heart” and Ellington and Hodges’ “It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dream,” in between I had a hard time controlling a constant smile and a tapping foot. Closing the matter for me was the inclusion of Illinois Jacquet’s “Don’Cha Go Way Mad” which I had missed hearing since a Scott Hamilton Concord CD several years ago. From the opening cymbal work of Lewis Nash, it was 5:34 of bliss.

If you are a soul jazz/ mainstream tenor sax fan(atic) it would be hard to argue that Houston Person isn’t a jazz treasure and an antidote to most anything that ruffles your feathers. We are so lucky that he continues to record and tour on a regular basis. Like potato chips and French fries, it is just impossible to stop wanting more of Mr. Person….

TrackList: Bag’s Groove, That’s All, How Little We Know, Namely You, My Foolish Heart, Red Sails in the Sunset, Don’ Cha’ Go ‘Way Mad, It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dream, Sunday

—Jeff Krow

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