Written by Eric J. Davis for THE ARTISTS FORUM MAGAZINE
Edited by Amos White V for THE ARTISTS FORUM, INC
Photo: Courtesy of Houston Person
5 out of 5 stars
HOUSTON PERSON QUARTET AT THE JAZZ STANDARD
New York, NY (July 25, 2015) The toe-tapping and head-bopping were almost instantaneous as the Houston Person Quartet performed last night at the world-class Jazz Standard. Picture it – the setting darkened and intimate, a room filled with twenty-somethings to a grandly older crowd, and clipped conversations in several different languages. In the midst of all this, the spotlight was on Houston Person, 80, the veteran tenor saxophonist and elder statesman of soul jazz.
Person, born in 1934 in Florence, South Carolina, has been continuously active since the early 1960s, and has performed with the likes of bandleader Johnny Hammond and Harlem’s own late, great singer Etta Jones. His roots are in organ-based R&B, but he is also an eloquent messenger of standards and jazz classics in both the hard bop and swing genres.
The burly tenorman was completely at ease onstage and exuded a genial personality and ready wit. His sound was as big and charming as he was. An irresistible wailing intensity of shrugging hoots and cantering bop sprints were effortlessly intermingled with his softly blown and velvety ballad technique.
Throughout each set, the impersonation of a singer’s tone palette was clearly evident with every note he played on his sax. Bold and bluesy. Sassy and expressive. Distinctive and with a bit of swagger. Person performed in a sophisticated and totally unfussy manner. Each song imbued with all the best he has learned along the way.
Accompanying Mr. Person were Larry Fuller, piano; Matthew Parrish, bass; and Chip White, drums. The rhythm section backed up Person with all the smooth elegance and polish he deserved. Fuller was bright and sparkly at the piano, Parrish beautifully handled his bass, and White was a dynamo on the drums.
At one point in the evening, during one of his Person-to-person exchanges with the audience, Mr. Person jovially stated, “I need to sit down. Maybe I need a rocking chair.” Whether standing or sitting or rocking away, just keep on playing Mr. Person. Just keep on playing!