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January/February 2008

Houston Person
Thinking of You
HighNote Records

With Houston Person, it’s all about tone. The tenor saxophonist, who was 72 years old when he recorded this session at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood, N.J., has never been known as a flashy player or an innovator, but instead has relied on the authority of his playing and the warmth of his sound, and nothing has changed here. Person takes charge at the outset on a version of Benny Carter’s “Rock Me to Sleep,” establishing a dreamy, swinging pace that is picked up by trumpeter Eddie Allen (who also joins in on three other tracks) and pianist John di Martino. Person’s statements of the melodies of the standards here have enough individuality to be solos, and his solos are tuneful enough to be part of the melodies. An early high point on the disc is the show tune “People,” which begins as a slow, straight treatment on which Person evokes the loneliness of the minor-key melody, lingering over every note, then unexpectedly turns to another musical trend from the spring of 1964, as a bossa nova beat slips in; it’s as if Barbra Streisand met Stan Getz on the beach in Rio.

That may be the cleverest moment on Thinking of You, but the album provides numerous examples of Person’s usual virtues, not the least of them his abilities as a blues player, on display in “Black Coffee,” a track his saxophone shares with James Chirillo’s stinging electric guitar work. Except for some of the copyright dates, this sounds like an album that could have been made any time in the last 40 years, but that only confirms Person’s consistency.

Originally published in January/February 2008
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