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Teddy Edwards/Houston Person: Close Encounters

Produced by Houston Person and flanking his huge tenor sound with that of the equally prestigious Teddy Edwards, this 1996 Rudy Van Gelder-engineered studio date can easily rank alongside the best recordings of the two tenor teams of the past. Although not as technically daunting as the Griff ‘n’ Jaws combo, certainly the fluency that Edwards and Person demonstrate on blues, ballads, and medium swing grooves places them on a par with the Jug & Sonny tandem. Backed in appropriately swinging fashion by pianist Stan Hope, bassist Ray Drummond, and drummer Kenny Washington, the two well-matched tenormen romp through the blues terrain on Wardell Gray’s “Twisted” and Jimmy Forrest’s “Night Train,” while also imparting healthy doses of soul to “Blues and Sentimental,” “Pennies From Heaven,” “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You,” “The Breeze and I,” and “Little Girl Blue.”

This recording succeeds especially because it is a conversation, not a shouting match, between two musicians who are secure enough in their abilities and reputations not to have to cut each other down at every turn. For purposes of easy identification, Teddy is the one with the slightly leaner, more boppish sound and who tends more to pronounced single-note articulation, while Houston takes a more expansive, legato approach to his phrasing. The copious interview-based notes by Ted Panken provide valuable historical information on both tenormen, but a more spacious four-page layout would have obviated the need for a magnifying glass.

Originally Published