Houston Person: Reminiscing at Rudy’s review – a melody masterclass

The saxophonist and his top band eschew improvisation in favour of faithful renditions of classic tunes, from Cole Porter to Paul Anka

There aren’t many of them about in the jazz world these days, but the American tenor saxophonist Houston Person is undoubtedly a melody man. He likes to keep close to the tune and relishes a real slow ballad. Oddly enough, he doesn’t play it with the customary warm vibrato. In fact there’s hardly any vibrato at all, but his slightly husky tone holds your attention like an instrumental Nat King Cole. Person is also a noted record producer and has been around long enough to know exactly who to choose when setting up a band.

Guitarist Russell Malone is probably the best known here, but look up the others and you’ll see they’re all in the A team: Larry Fuller (piano), Matthew Parrish (bass) and Lewis Nash (drums). Having chosen them, Person makes sure that each one gets his fair share of the limelight, and there’s some great playing all round on these 10 tracks. The songwriters chosen stretch from Cole Porter to Percy Mayfield. If I had to choose one number it would be Paul Anka’s Put Your Head on My Shoulder, played with such delicacy that I keep going back to hear it again.

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