BEST SOUNDING TENOR ALIVE-AS LEADER AND SIDEMAN: Houston Person: Naturally, LaVerne Butler Love Lost and Found Again

I’m sorry, but the more I listen to jazz, the less impressed I am by chops for chops sake, and the more I spend time listening to a horn player that’s got a sound that calls me back for more.  I mean, haven’t Coltrane and Griffin taken the  tenor sax  “just about as fur as she can go” as they say in Oklahoma? As Lester Young once said of a guy that could have been 99% of today’s saxists, “Lots of notes; said nothing.” Here, you’ve got the guy, Houston Person, who’s got probably the best sound coming out of the tenor these days, and it doesn’t matter if he’s leading the group or just a member of the backup band, his smoky tenor is what dreams are made of.

His own Naturally has him with the steady veterans of Cedar Walton/p, Ray Drummond/b and Lewis Nash/dr blowing through like a foggy breeze in London on bluesy boppers like “Bag’s Groove” or “Don’ Cha Go ‘Way Mad.” The rest of the material is dreamy ballads, and he caresses the melodies of “My Foolish Heart” and “That’s All” like he’s holding the Culinan Diamond.  The rhythm team is leather glove perfect, and keep the music moving like a cop directing downtown NYC traffic as on the spritely bouncing “Sunday.” Comfort food from Selmer!

Vocalist LaVerne Baker has a patient and easy approach to a lyric, not unlike a female Freddie Cole. Her team of Bruce Barth/p-arr, Ugonna Okegwo/b and Rudy Royston/dr  are cabaret cool, and create intimate moods as a backup trio on the pixie cute “I’ve Told Ev’ry Little Star” and the luminous “Smile.” When Person drops with his magic wand of a tenor, LaVerne gets down to business with some hep cat grooves on “The Bluest Blues”  and “I’ll Never Be Free.” Best of all is a drop dead gorgeous trio of her with just Barth and Person on a take of “Travellin’ Light” that has everyone bearing their soul like it’s confession time at an AA meeting. Simply overwhelming in its beauty. Check out this one!

High Note Records

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