Houston Person: Blue Odyssey
Much to the chagrin of many critics the late 1960s was a heyday of sorts for Soul Jazz. The number of cats dipping their paws into the sweet nectar of the style would never again reach such denominations as it did during the close of the decade. Person, a saxophonist with both soulful touch and a bluesy sensibility balanced a tough tenor tone with a healthy supplication to the almighty beat. As each of the disc’s tracks generously demonstrates his reverence for a groove never came at the cost of creativity and Person with Walton enlisted as ad hoc musical director devises a program that stretches his sidemen’s faculties while still adhering to a finger-popping affability.
From the opening bars of the locomotive title track to the closing choruses of “Starburst” Person plans a trip well worth taking. Walton’s “Holy Land” catches a sanctified groove and refuse to let go with earthy expositions from each of the horns and colorful rhapsodic fills from the pianist during the breaks. The sextet’s version of “I Love You, Yes I Do” spotlights Person’s gorgeous tone which references the full-bodied spirit of Gene Ammons while still remaining true to a highly personal sound. “Funky London,” builds off its somewhat contradictory title into a smoking workout for Walton punctuated by a solid string snapping solo from Cranshaw. Fuller and Adams, two of the undisputed heavyweights of their respective instruments also take numerous and highly enjoyable opportunities to weigh in on the solo front. My only real complaint is that the disc comes up so short on running time. With Person and Walton at the helm these six players could have easily filled another forty minutes with high caliber grooves like these and it’s a shame that the restrictions of the LP format prevented them from doing so. Or maybe the truncated nature of the session was simply a savvy marketing ploy on the part of Person designed to entice listeners into laying down the bread for his other Prestige records in search of more of the same. In the case of this listener, mission accomplished.
Tracks:Blue Odyssey/ Holy Land/ I Love You, Yes I Do/ Funky London/ Please Send Me Someone To Love/ Starrburst.
Players:Houston Person- tenor saxophone; Curtis Fuller- trombone; Pepper Adams- baritone saxophone; Cedar Walton- piano; Bob Cranshaw- bass; Frank Jones- drums.
Recorded: March 12, 1968, NYC, NY.