Houston Person: To Etta With Love

A heart-rending reading of Sammy Cahn’s “It’s Magic” also opens To Etta With Love (HighNote), big-toned tenorist Houston Person’s loving tribute to his long-time collaborator and friend, vocalist Etta Jones, who died in 2001. Fittingly, Person chose songs associated with the singer, such as her hits “Don’t Go to Strangers” and “Don’t Misunderstand” as well as some tunes she particularly favored, like “Since I Fell for You,” by her first employer, Buddy Johnson. Person’s playing is predictably wistful and pensive. Indeed, on several tunes, including Etta’s two hits, he merely caresses the songs’ original themes with his gorgeous tone and breathy attack rather than create melodies of his own. He does engage in a bit of swinging when it’s called for, however, really digging in on the uptempo “I Should Care” and grooving gently on the more sedate “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” Guitarist Paul Bollenback serves as a consummate front-line partner, providing interesting, well-paced solos on all the tracks. Person’s solid, tasteful rhythm section consists of pianist Stan Hope, bassist Per-Ola Gadd and drummer Chip White.