Eric Person: The Grand Illusion

Saxophonist Eric Person takes a detour from his usual stylistic terrain for his eighth album. Person, known for working in a more conventional postbop style, blends funk, rock and R&B into a vibrant modern stew over the course of these nine robust tunes and four brief interludes, all of them originals.

He switches among tenor, alto and soprano saxes, as well as backing keyboards and samples, and he plays each with muscle and sensuality. “More Tales to Tell” has him blowing strong, funky lines over a steady groove. “Carefree and Easy” is just that, Person playing a sweet, happy melody, with a tone and approach reminiscent of Kenny Garrett’s. (Even the composition recalls KG’s “Happy People.”) Person nimbly negotiates some challenging arpeggios on “Driving Rain,” and turns inward and pensive over ambient keyboards and lightly brushed cymbals on “Morning Prayer.”

The session is not all about the frontman, though. Zaccai Curtis crafts creative electric piano solos on “Disappearing Act” and “Bravado,” and guitarist Cary DeNigris channels Vernon Reid (Person’s former employer) on the epic-rock-like numbers “Driving Rain” and “The Grand Illusion.” Drummer Brandon Lewis figures prominently into the groove workout “Justification,” on which he and Person fuel each other in kind. The Grand Illusion is not what we have come to expect from Eric Person, but the outing proves Frost’s hypothesis about the road less traveled.