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Houston Person: I'm Just a Lucky So and So

Jack Bowers By

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Perhaps tenor saxophonist Houston Person is indeed A Lucky So and So, as he professes on his newly recorded album of that name, but it has taken far more than luck to sustain a long and successful career that spans more than half a century and numbers more than sixty albums as leader of his own groups. Person's "luck," such as it is, has been bolstered by his remarkable ability to connect with listeners—call it charisma or whatever you will—while settling chameleon-like into almost any company or framework.

This time around, Person leads a high-powered quartet (Lafayette Harris, piano; Matthew Parrish, bass; Kenny Washington, drums) that is enlarged on seven tracks by trumpeter Eddie Allen and on half a dozen by guitarist Rodney Jones. (Another perk of long-term success is the ability to enlist only the most accomplished available sidemen.) And as has been his penchant in recent years, Person leans most heavily and often on time-honored themes from the Great American Songbook, the exceptions being Jones' "Song for a Rainbow," the late bassist George Duvivier's "Alone with Just My Dreams" (a showcase for Jones' vibrant bass and Harris' soulful piano) and the blues-drenched finale, "Next Time You See Me."

Tempos, which range from slow to medium, also suit Person's sagacity and frame of mind, firmly rooted as they are in a venerable swing / blues tradition whose exponents have included Ben Webster, Arnett Cobb, Don Byas, Lockjaw Davis, Gene Ammons, Lester Young, Dexter Gordon and many other giants of the tenor. Again, there is an outlier, Sammy Cahn's carefree "Day by Day," on which Person shows that his unquestioned mastery of the horn remains as solid as ever. For the most part, however, Person affirms his aptitude and fondness for ballads and blues on such paradigms as "Willow Weep for Me," "Wonder Why," "Who Can I Turn To," Billy Eckstine's "I Want to Talk About You" and Duke Ellington's self-effacing title song.

On the one hand, I'm Just a Lucky So and So encases almost an hour of Houston Person doing what he does best, which should please his many fans as well as others who've not yet been introduced to his smooth and even-tempered form of jazz. On the other, there is nothing here that Person hasn't done many times before in formats from duo to trio and beyond; only the songs themselves are dissimilar. In other words, this is a typically open-hearted and polished group effort in which everyone fares well but no one brings any fresh ingredients to the table.

Track Listing: Willow Weep for Me; Wonder Why; I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry; I’m Just a Lucky So and So; Who Can I Turn To; Day by Day; Alone with Just My Dreams; Song for a Rainbow; I Want to Talk About You; Next Time You See Me.

Personnel: Houston Person: tenor saxophone; Eddie Allen: trumpet (1, 3, 4, 6, 8-10); Lafayette Harris: piano; Rodney Jones: guitar (1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 10); Matthew Parrish: bass; Kenny Washington: drums.

Title: I'm Just a Lucky So and So | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: HighNote Records

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