Houston Person: Naturally

Active on the scene for decades, 78-year-old tenor saxophonist Houston Person still seems to be a discovery for some. Both newcomers to his music and longtime fans will no doubt enjoy this latest recording featuring a formidable group: veteran pianist Cedar Walton (with whom Person first collaborated in the 1960s), bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Lewis Nash.

Person showcases his warm, enveloping tone and big sound, steeped in bop, blues and the Great American Songbook, on a set of beloved tunes, some still relatively unexplored. Opening is Milt Jackson’s “Bags’ Groove,” where Walton takes the first solo, laidback yet abounding with spirit and sentiment; Person stretches out in luxurious fashion while Drummond and Nash contribute their own groove-enhancing statements. One of three ballads in the program, “My Foolish Heart” illustrates Person’s fundamental approach to his horn, eloquently expressing heartfelt emotion in much the same way a vocalist might. Nash’s swinging brushwork shines on the sumptuous “That’s All” and “How Little We Know,” and Walton shimmers on “Red Sails in the Sunset.” The Ellington/Hodges gem “It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dream,” largely unrecorded since the 1950s, is revived in grand style, with poignant solos by Person and Walton, as Nash and Brown sustain taut yet fluid movement.

Recorded at the legendary Van Gelder Studio, this throwback album is nonetheless fresh and imaginative. Aptly titled, it’s a relaxed, compelling set on which Person and his bandmates demonstrate unaffected dexterity, swing and soul.

Sharonne Cohen

Sharonne Cohen is a Montreal-based writer and editor. A music journalist since 2001, with a Master’s degree (and ABD PhD) in English, her work has appeared in publications including JazzTimes, DownBeat, OkayPlayer, VICE/Noisey, Afropop Worldwide, The Revivalist and La Scena Musicale, often accompanied by her photos of the artists.