Houston Person – Something Personal – HighNote

by | Jan 1, 2016 | Jazz CD Reviews

Houston Person – Something Personal – HighNote HCD7282, 63:16 ****:

Stylishness and lyricism succeed in a mainstream scene.

(Houston Person – tenor saxophone; Steve Nelson – vibraphone; John di Martino – piano; James Chirillo – guitar tracks 2,4,5,6; Ray Drummond – bass; Lewis Nash – drums)

In the King James version of the Bible, Matthew 9:17 reads: ”neither do men put new wine in old bottles, else the bottles break.” Clearly this admonition does not apply to tenor saxophonist Houston Person and his cohorts in the release Something Personal. This stellar aggregation has taken some familiar standards and introduced them into new versions with body, finish, and character, that make them readily enjoyable.

Houston Person, who is now in his eightieth year, knows all there is to know about playing the tenor saxophone, and has developed his soulful style which features a breezy approach and deep phrasing. Throughout the session, all the recognizable stylistic features of Person’s playing and those of the other members of the group, are brought out beautifully by Rudy Van Gelder’s recording and engineering.

Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen wrote “The Second Time Around” for a forgettable Bing Crosby movie called High Time released in 1960. The tune became a hit when it was recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1963. Taken a moderate ballad tempo, the group creates an affinity that sticks close to the song structure with Person leading the way in his inimitable approach. “I’m Afraid The Masquerade Is Over” has been covered by the likes of Nancy Wilson, Dave Brubeck and Gene Harris all of whom offered the song in varying styles and tempos. Here Houston Person swings the tune out in bravura fashion with his usual conviction. Vibist Steve Nelson runs through his solo with panache and virtuosity. Pianist John di Martino also shows his mettle in his solo efforts.

“The Way We Were” was written for the 1973 romantic drama of the same name which starred Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford. Marvin Hamlisch along with Alan and Marilyn Bergman wrote the number which won an Academy Award for Best Song. Guitarist James Chirillo opens the tune with a bluesy riff and then provides comping support for Person as he does a soulful take on the theme as drummer Lewis Nash provides a light bossa-nova beat throughout. Rudy Toombs wrote “Teardrops From My Eyes” which the singer Ruth Brown turned into a R&B hit in 1950. Person and the group find a solid swinging groove with their interpretation of the classic which doesn’t let up.

The title track “Something Personal” is a mellow ballad filled with Person’s appealing sound with Nelson’s vibes in cool support, while di Martino’s piano shows his resourcefulness. The closing number is Benny Golson’s evocative “I Remember Clifford” which the group does in a ballad form with Person’s lush tone leading the way. In the set’s longest track, each player takes an extended solo with Nelson’s vibes operating at sleek deftness, and pianist di Martino is cooly languorous. In his brief turn bassist Ray Drummond is powerfully authentic .

In this latest exploration into the standard songbook, Houston Person and the band demonstrates that stylishness and lyricism can succeed in a mainstream scene.

TrackList: The Second Time Around; Crazy He Calls Me; I’m Afraid The Masquerade Is Over; The Way We Were; Guilty; Change Partners; Teardrops From My Eyes; Something Personal; On The Sunny Side Of The Street; I Remember Clifford

—Pierre Giroux

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