Houston Person: Island Episode
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.
Island Episode contains one track from 1971 and a complete, unreleased session from 1973. "Nemo," from 1971, is an octet performance featuring Babe Clark on baritone sax, Cecil Bridgewater on trumpet, Billy Butler on guitar and Bernard Purdie on drums. It's an okay R&B number; typical for the period. But things really kick into gear on the outstanding 1973 session that features Victor Paz on trumpet, Hank Jones on electric piano, an outstanding Jimmy Ponder on guitar, Nicky Marrero on timbales, an unknown drummer and Andy and Jerry Gonzalez from the Fort Apache band. This formerly unknown session, recorded shortly after Person's last LP for Prestige in 1972 (Sweet Buns And Barbecue) and his first for Eastbound in 1973, is a great Caribbean-type outing that beautifully spotlights its leader's musical and passionate abilities. While Jones is surprisingly faceless on electric piano, Ponder sounds great throughout on acoustic guitar and Person eschews the drummer almost totally in favor of some of the spicy percussion as the rhythmic percolator. Both versions of "St. Thomas" cook here. So does "Theme from Baxter" and "Montuno Merengue" (on which Person doesn't even enter until nearly 7 minutes into the song). This unusual session is most highly recommended and one of Person's very best.