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Houston Person Reminiscing at Rudy’s (High Note)

Houston Person remains a consistent interpreter of song and has never been particularly extreme or outrageous, but his tenor saxophone is unfailingly expressive.

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Cover of Reminiscing at Rudy’s

At the age of 88, Houston Person remains a reliably consistent interpreter of song. He has never been particularly extreme or outrageous, preferring to keep his cool: His tenor saxophone is unfailingly expressive, his melodies rarely stray far, and regardless of the configuration he’s working with at the moment, his tone and feel are recognizably his own. 

That’s not to say he’s lacking in any way. With a discography that now reportedly exceeds 75 albums as a leader, Person has rarely misfired. His latest, Reminiscing at Rudy’s, is no exception. As its title implies, the set was recorded in a single day at the Van Gelder Studio in New Jersey, a place whose very name suggests familiarity and comfort. Joining Person for the session are guitarist Russell Malone, pianist Larry Fuller, bassist Matthew Parrish, and drummer Lewis Nash. They work well together—no big surprises here—and, with Person self-producing, come up with 10 numbers that both emphasize the leader’s undiminished skills and class, and showcase the musicians’ rapport. 

The tracks, for the most part, are also familiar: Rodgers and Hart’s “My Romance,” Henry Mancini’s “Moon River,” Cole Porter’s “At Long Last Love.” But there are a few that give Person and his ensemble opportunities to stretch, and they are among the highlights. A Cedar Walton tune, “I’ll Let You Know,” elicits a breathy, dreamy solo from Person and gives Fuller, in particular, all the space he needs to reimagine Walton’s piano parts. Percy Mayfield’s classic 1950 blues ballad, “Please Send Me Someone to Love,” is a perfect vehicle not only for Person and Fuller but for Malone’s oh-so-sweet guitar. And even Paul Anka’s perpetually schmaltzy “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” is redeemed in these hands, quite lovely when stripped down to its most basic attributes. 

Jeff Tamarkin

Jeff Tamarkin on social media

Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.