Houston Person: Lost & Found
There must be very few musicians as frequently recorded as Houston Person who are as misunderstood, maligned or just plain ignored. The jazz crowd thinks he's just a funkster. And the funk lovers write him off as a balladeer or standards-bearer. Of course, he's all this and more. He's also an accomplished be-bopster, a kick-ass bluesmith, a passionate gospel player, a sensitive accompanist and in addition to becoming quite the talent scout and seasoned producer, he's really turned into a first-rate ballads player. He's always maintained his own sound (right out of the Book of Jug) but he's never really had the audience he's deserved. These two releases, and his brand new disc, Person-ified (Highnote), may help to change all that though. Both Lost & Found and Island Episode contain material that, up until now, has been unavailable and, what's better, contain some truly excellent Person.
Lost & Found contains two full Muse albums issued on one disc, courtesy of , Joel Dorn's new low-priced 32 Jazz label. One session comprises the long lost 1977 album Wildflower, featuring Jimmy Ponder on guitar, Sonny Phillips on organ and electric piano, Idris Muhammed on drums and Lawrence Killian on percussion. This is the record that features Sonny Phillips' classic late 70s funk tune, "Preachin' and Teachin" (also available on the pHo acid-jazz collection, Funky Good Time) as well as some mid-tempo and slow jams that favored Person's distinctive growl. Much of this album, however, catches Person (who produced the disc) using a sort of studio-enhanced echo effect that gives his playing a false, resilient (and unnecessary) ring. It's similar to some of the tactics Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Gene Ammons would employ at Rudy Van Gelder's studios in their day. Fortunately, such is not the case on Person's Sweet Slumber, the other half of this terrific CD; a self-produced and formerly unreleased session from 1991 featuring bluesman, pinaist and vocalist Charles Brown. Person is in good form here on an inspired and exceptionally strong blues-based recording. Guest Charles Brown keeps the blues integrity strong and abundant throughout these seven tracks (with occasional vocals). The strongest tracks allow Person to show how accomplished a blues player he can be ("Late Night Lullaby," "No Denial Blues," Trust In Me" and "Sweet Slumber"). A nice surprise that is most highly recommended.