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Houston Person: Rain or Shine (HighNote)

Review of latest soul and jazz album from the veteran saxophonist

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Cover of Houston Person album Rain or Shine
Cover of Houston Person album Rain or Shine

In the liner notes, Houston Person says, “Few people get into this kind of groove these days.” So true. It is the sensual, slightly sweaty, blues-based groove they used to call soul-jazz. It was central to the jazz art form (and to its commercial viability) in the 1960s. But in our current eclectic, experimental era, it is a quaint niche. When you hear an authentic voice of the genre like Person, you remember how easy it is to like this music.

On the opening “Come Rain or Come Shine,” Person never leaves the melody. But the gruff warmth of his tenor saxophone turns the song’s extravagant promise into a credible truth of the heart. The earthy, romantic, nocturnal atmosphere is sustained even as tempos shift among slow (“I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone”) and very slow (“Everything Must Change”) and medium-funky (“Learnin’ the Blues”). The program contains standards, old R&B hits and lost gems like “132nd and Madison,” by the great unsung pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs. His tune, with its infectious vamps, operates in a narrow zone between sinful pleasure and gospel. Person’s solo walks that fine line.

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