Date of Release Sep 28, 1999
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
In some secret sanctum of the human psyche lies a basic need for order and continuity. When this need is filled, one feels a sense of comfort and well-being that silently says "everything is all right with my world." This hidden desire can be traced to such lofty ideals as the Brotherhood of Mankind, the institutions of community and family, or merely a person's subconscious wish for some sense of stability in an often chaotic world. This need for balance also occurs in the arts and is strongly embedded in our music. Since, at their core, blues and jazz are in essence folk musics and they must remain music for the folks. There should always be room for innovation, especially in the jazz idiom, but there is still a need for the continuation of already established traditions. Naturally, ongoing experimentation is equally important, but when the voices of giants are forever stilled and older idioms begin to fade, it's extremely reassuring to find players of subsequent generations carrying the torch lovingly. For example, to hear contemporary tenorists Harry Allen, Scott Hamilton or Tad Schull continue the work of the great swing-era saxmen, while adding their own ideas and personalities, is quite pleasurable to the ears of most jazzophiles. Likewise is the case of Joey DeFrancesco exploring the pathways built by Jimmy Smith, or organists Jeff Palmer and Bill Heid expanding the boundaries set by Hammond astronaut, Larry Young. Then there's Houston Person...
Very much his own man musically, it's readily apparent from the expanse of his regal tone and his inherent bluesicality that Houston was passed the baton by none other than sax-griot Gene Ammons when he died in 1974. Actually, the well-worn Charlie Parker/Sonny Stitt link could be stretched to apply in their case since Person was only forty when Jug passed and was well-established stylistically with several albums notched on his belt. Also relevant is his enduring, long-term creative relationship with singer Etta Jones, reminiscent of the empathy between Lester Young and Billie Holiday.
Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder's celebrated Englewood Cliffs studio, this album has much in common with Houston's last HighNote release, "My Romance" (HCD 7033). Produced by the man himself, it sports a brace of standards that begin with Burke and Van Heusen's "Here's That Rainy Day," the same team responsible for the lead-off tune on the aforementioned issue. As on the majority of the selections Person drapes his improvised chorus in blue velvet and makes every note count. He wraps up "I'll Be Around" with a silky cadenza over a bowed bass and his smoky take of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic, "It Might As Well be Spring" is bestowed reed-kisses in the manner of Ben Webster.
In this his centennial year, it is befitting to include two songs from the pen of Maestro Ellington. "It Shouldn't Happen To a Dream" contains rides from all hands except the drums and the moderately swinging "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me" recalls his 12/19/77 version with Richard 'Groove' Holmes only without the call-and-response settings in the final verses. An apt reminder of how important the Ducal Songbook is to the jazz repertoire.
Here at the halfway point in the songlist description, a few words about the supporting players are in order. Discounting the addition of the excellent guitarist Russell Malone and the substitution of Grady Tate for Kenny Washington, this is the same rhythm section that appeared on Houston's last album mentioned above and the preceding "Person-ified" (HCD 7004), waxed at the Van Gelder facility in 1996. The vastly under-appreciated Richard Wyands ties with Malone for solo honors after the leader, and bassist Ray Drummond is spotlighted in two places. The guitar player's recent stint in Diana Krall's trio has increased his expertise in the art of underpinning interaction. And what is there that can be said about drum-master extraordinaire Grady Tate that hasn't already been said From the Broadway musical "The Pajama Game" comes the early-fifties smash, "Hey There," all gussied up in a hip arrangement that features walking bass and slapping brushes under the sax for the two 'A sections, with the chordal instruments joining on the 'B' section. This device is repeated after solid tenor, guitar and piano explorations which culminate in a chop ending. The Dubin / Warren classic, "I Only Have Eyes For You," receives a similar medium-swing treatment, with deft brushwork from trapster Tate. Deep soul diva Etta James' signature tune, "At Last," allows fretman Malone to strut his stuff with a string-bending introduction then, later on, when he goes down in the basement, for two verses of greasy guitaring.
The final two tracks on which to comment are the most unique. Usually associated with songwriter/singer Matt Dennis, "The Night We Called It a Day," is given tempo surgery into a strolling samba and, after solo rounds the boss hornman works out over an extended tag before the fade. The closing cut, the 1971 adult-contemporary hit by the soft rock group Bread, "If," is presented as a duet reading by Houston and Malone, whose solo stint is mostly chordal, displaying an almost encyclopedic knowledge of that aspect of guitar playing. A subtle ending to another worthy addition to Houston Person's diverse discography. So, grab your favorite libation, dim the lights and luxuriate in these sensual sax sounds.
- Larry Hollis