Houston Person

Thinking of You

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Houston Person's recent recordings have seen him removed from the soul-jazz he built a reputation on in his early days, and gravitate toward a refined balladic sound that identifies his older/wiser/mellow persona. For this date, he uses groups varying in size from duo to quartet and sextet, which does mix things up a bit, but keeps Person on the leaner side of mainstream jazz. Not that all the music is laid-back; in fact, two numbers -- the title track and "Sing" -- display a more animated, playful Person on his trusty tenor saxophone. It is his sidemen -- trumpeter Eddie Allen, pianist John Di Martino, and guitarist James Chirillo -- who light coolly burning embers under Person's posterior. Allen in particular is woefully underappreciated, but shows up here on the four larger ensemble selections, working well in tandem alongside Person on the Benny Carter-written Count Basie-like easy blues swinger "Rock Me to Sleep," laying back on "Sing" until the second chorus while Person plays the main melody, and playing in bossa-trimmed lockstep with the leader on the pleasant "Brazilian Emerald." One wishes to hear more from Allen, always. Di Martino is a delight no matter the context, his highlights being his chiming piano accenting "Emerald" and the beautiful serenity of the original instrumental 1926 chart of "Avant de Mourir" with Person in duet. Chirillo is a flexible guitarist, whether simpatico with Di Martino on the pensive ballad-to-light-bossa version of the pop tune "People," providing an edgy Larry Coryell-ish Texas blues flavor on "Black Coffee," or in duet with Person on an at-length discourse during a medley of Nat King Cole tunes that ends the recording. Person, one of the more consistent jazz performers over the past few decades, is reliable primarily for his soft soul, which holds him and his fans in good stead. This CD is no less enjoyable than many others he has recently released, and is easily recommended.

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