Houston Person is one of the most popular saxophone players of the last 40 years. He has released dozens of albums as a leader, appeared on many more as a sideman and in his later years found himself in demand as a producer. His big-toned, bluesy tenor sound has a warmth that makes it attractive to aficionados and casual listeners alike. At 80 he is one of the grand old men of jazz, yet with very little of the mainstream credit given to contemporaries such as Wayne Shorter who play a more contemplative arty style of music.
South Carolina-born Person got his break playing in the band of Johnny “Hammond” Smith, which he joined in 1963. In 1967 Prestige Records’ A&R man Don Schlitten realised Person had what it took to be a leader and signed him to the label. But it wasn’t until he began working with Schlitten’s successor Bob Porter that things started to happen, and the album “Goodness” became a hit. Over the next few years Person established himself as a leading club act and albums such as “Person To Person” and “Houston Express” proved very popular.
When Porter left Prestige to run the Detroit-based Westbound label’s Eastbound offshoot, Person followed. The first album they recorded was “The Real Thing”, a live double cut at the Club Mozambique featuring a cast of players that included Grant Green, Idris Muhammad, Brother Jack McDuff and James Jamerson.
When Porter left the label, Person continued, recording the two albums featured here. “Houston Person ’75”, the first and more contemporary, is closer to R&B than jazz. Person’s saxophone is slightly rough, which prevents the record seeming too smooth and helps it retain an edge. The uncredited backing band likely features the cream of Detroit’s session players. The album contains an excellent version of Jr Walker’s ‘Shotgun’, while the closing ‘He’ll Fight My Battles’ has vocals by Etta Jones. His next album, “Get Out’A My Way!”, continued down the same path. It features an excellent version of the Isley Brothers’ ‘For The Love Of You’ and plenty of funky grooves to keep the listener happy.
After his short stay at Westbound, Person moved to Mercury, before settling into a long tenure at Muse. He then signed to HighNote for whom he has continued to record.