Houston Person: Live In Paris

A couple of months short of his 85th birthday, the saxophonist swings an organ combo featuring Peter Bernstein with undiminished gusto

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Hard to believe on hearing his warm-toned and assured playing that at the time of this concert tenor saxophonist Houston Person was only a couple of months away from his 85th birthday.

Always cleaving to the melodic intentions of the composers of the music he selects, when he plays ballads it is clear that like all the best instrumental soloists he is also aware of the lyrics of the songs he interprets. This particular quality was an important facet of his decades-long musical association with his wife, singer Etta Jones (1928-2001). He has also worked with numerous groups as leader of the house band at HighNote Records.

In the mid-1960s, Person recorded an early own-name album on which he fronted a quartet that included an organ. This formation was then a favourite with fans and ever since there has been no shortage of tenor-organ groups, their popularity continuing through to the present day.

It is such a group that Person leads here at a session recorded live at the Cité de la Musique in Paris during the 2019 Festival Jazz à la Villette. Person’s collaborators are Hammond B-3 organist Ben Paterson, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Willie Jones III. There are extended solos from saxophonist, organist and guitarist on all tracks, notably the four ballads. All are in fine form, playing with skill, understanding and invention.

On the medium- and up-tempo pieces, Person swings with consummate ease, drawing his collaborators along with him. Throughout, these three are skilfully cushioned by deft playing from Jones, who also has occasional moments in the solo spotlight, in particular on Lester Leaps In.

It’s a well recorded set, and the audience is clearly appreciative but never intrusive. Lovers of mainstream jazz will be delighted.

Discography
Sweet Sucker; Only Trust Your Heart; Easy Walker; The Way We Were; Lester Leaps In; Since I Fell For You; Sunny; Jean-Jaures Shuffle (59.04)
Person (ts); Ben Paterson (org); Peter Bernstein (g); Willie Jones III (d). Paris, 8 September 2019.
HighNote Records HCD7338