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Houston Person: Blue Velvet

Referring to Houston Person, Ray Brown recently noted, “He’s one of the few left with any honest grease.” How eloquent. How sad. Don’t you wish giants such as Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Stanley Turrentine could swing forever? On a note of reality, Person is not consciously trying to keep a particular tenor tradition alive. It just so happens every time he plays a lick some of the DNA of those who preceded him makes itself known.

Which brings us to his latest project, Blue Velvet-nine fairly neglected standards, mostly ballads, with a rhythm section any instrumentalist or singer would gladly work under scale for: pianist Richard Wyands, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Grady Tate.

Highlights: the sudden urge by Person to jump start “I Want to Talk About You” with some potent bop flurries; the probability that he knows the words to “Blame It on My Youth” (many instrumentalists claim knowledge of the lyrics help them to interpret ballads); the blues tinge he adds to the title tune; his decision to take that cloying ballad “Be My Love” as an uptempo swinger; the remarkable brush work of Grady Tate; the gap-filling comments of Wyands and Drummond.

Finally, Person’s belief in melody is first. While the art of playing a tune the way it was written sounds simple, it’s an anathema to many up and coming instrumentalists. They should enroll in Houston Person’s Melody 101 course.

Originally Published