Houston Person is an excellent, underrated tenor saxophonist with a full, rich tone and a knack for well-constructed, tasteful, but never boring solos. That said, he's occasionally guilty of giving the people what they want, releasing smooth and conservative albums that are perfectly enjoyable to listen to, but somewhat beneath what he's capable of. 2000's In a Sentimental Mood is exactly that; this collection of standards features some excellent performances of classic ballads, but it's all so polite that it's hard to see the set as anything more than better-than-average background music. Foregoing his usual organ accompaniment, Person teams up with pianist Stan Hope, standup bassist George Kaye, and drummer Chip White for a classic piano trio-plus-sax lineup, and the song selection is undeniable: you just can't go wrong with tunes like "My Funny Valentine," "All the Things You Are," and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." Yet there are so few risks taken on In a Sentimental Mood that one doesn't even have to listen to the album; anyone who knows these songs and Houston Person's characteristic sound already knows what this album sounds like. It sounds terrific, but it's hard not to want more.
All Music Guide
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You have to hand it to Houston Person. In a time where jazz has become either mind-numbing, vacuous elevator music or a product or Emperor's-new-clothes pseudo-intellectuals passing oft squeaks and squawks as music, Houston Person is content to make jazz that satisfies the basic need or audiences everywhere - communication. Knowing mil well that great tunes become associated with memories or our lire, Houston has programmed a selection ox tunes that people have consistently requested around the country, tunes that mean something to the listener. Surrounded by his touring band, which has been intact for four years and featuring Stan Hope on piano for 15 years. Houston oners a dozen standards that mean something. They speak eloquently for themselves and render any additional comment superfluous. Beethoven himself once said, "Great music should go from the heart, to the heart." Judging from this record, that is a lesson well-learned by Houston Person.
- Roy Osnato
My music has taken me to more cities and towns than you find in some atlases. For as different as audiences are there is a common thread that runs through them all. When you play the ballads, the sentimental, the love songs you get a response. And you get requests. It is amazing how certain tunes become caught up and associated with a memory.
I use my music to reach the audience. Improvising on the great songs allows you to communicate directly with the listener with the freedom to interpret your own thoughts and feelings through what the composer wrote. My sound, my approach to a ballad is I guess you can say like a singer. I am conscious of the Words. The lyric gives the song its meaning and provides a springboard tor me, as an improviser. I never play a tune the same way twice. My music doesn't disguise the melody or reshape it or convolute it so that it is unrecognizable. Critics so often look lor this in reviewing an artist's work. But I don't necessarily play to the critics. My purpose is, like that of all jazz artists, to reach the audience, if I can do that, make that "connection," I have accomplished what I set out to do. Look back to earlier tenor sax greats, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Stan Gets, Gene Ammons to name a lew. They were all ballad masters. The tenor saxophone has the most romantic human sound and people can pick up on it. This is a collection of the best of the many "requests" that I have received over the years. Space limitations prevent me from mentioning each person who requested a certain song by name. Instead I have indicated the city torn which I have received the most requests lor a given song. I hope you all will take this album as a show of appreciation lor allowing me to share my music with you lor so many years. I plan to continue tor as long as anyone will listen.