Tenor saxophonist Houston Person is a true man of the people, a jazz working class hero. Ask him about his musical values, and he says, “It’s important that (the music) relaxes you and makes you feel good … I’m going to always play the things that I think contribute to good jazz … the blues and swinging.” Mr. Person is today’s leading instrumentalist in the tradition Gene Ammons and Stanley Turrentine made so popular.
Person grew up in Florence, South Carolina, and first played piano before switching to tenor saxophone. He studied at South Carolina State College where he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1999. In the United States Air Force he joined a service band stationed in West Germany, and played with Don Ellis, Eddie Harris, Cedar Walton, and Leo Wright. He later continued his studies at Hartt College of Music in Hartford, Connecticut. He received the Eubie Blake Jazz Award in 1982.
He first became known for a series of albums for Prestige Records in the 1960s. Contrary to popular belief, he was never married to the vocalist Etta Jones, but did spend many years as her musical partner, recording, performing and touring. For much of his career this association was what he was best known for. They met playing in organist Johnny Hammond’s band. There are more than 75 albums recorded by Houston Person as a bandleader on Prestige, Westbound, Mercury, and Muse Records and he has most recently been recording on High Note Records. He has recorded with Charles Brown, Bill Charlap, Charles Earland, Lena Horne, Etta Jones, Lou Rawls, Horace Silver, Dakota Staton, Billy Butler, Richard “Groove” Holmes and others. His prolific collaborations as a producer draw upon a four-decade association with Rudy Van Gelder.
Listen to his recordings, whether it’s 1966’s Underground Soul or 2005’s Ron Carter collaboration Just Between Friends, and you’ll hear a big melodic, warm sound.