Desert Island Jazz
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  • Houston Person (2010)

    (Photo by Gene Martin)

    Houston Person has had one of the most readily identifiable tenor saxophone sounds in jazz for some 50 years: big, soulful and bluesy. Though it's reminiscent of Gene Ammons, Gene's isn't a name that comes up when Houston talks about his tenor saxophone favorites, many of whom were or still are his friends: Illinois Jacquet, Teddy Edwards, Harold Land, … Listening to him, it's not that much of a stretch to think of R&B. (In fact, during "Desert Island Jazz", Houston noted of his tastes "I'm a big R&B guy", commenting further "every band I've played in is R&B … if I'm in it, it's R&B!")

    Born and raised in South Carolina, Houston's first instrument was the piano, but he'd converted to the saxophone by the time he was in the armed services. Based in Germany, he was part of a stellar Army band which also boasted Don Ellis, Eddie Harris, Lanny Morgan, Leo Wright, and Cedar Walton.

    Houston has a particular ability to accompany singers. For over 25 years, he and vocalist Etta Jones had a particularly fruitful partnership, one which was broken only by her death in 2001. (So frequently did they perform together that people used to wonder whether they were married, hence Houston's reply "We are both married—to other people!") He's also recorded with Ernestine Anderson, Charles Brown, Freddie Cole, Rebecca Paris and Denise Perrier.

    Houston is equally adept on the other side of the microphone, having produced about as many recordings as he's appeared on (in some cases fulfilling both roles).
    Pick Artist Album Song Label
    # 1 Miles Davis Bags' Groove Bags' Groove Prestige
    # 2 Clifford Brown Clifford Brown Memorial You Go to My Head Blue Note
    # 3 Charles Brown All My Life All My Life Rounder
    # 4 Harold Land Harold in the Land of Jazz Groove Yard OJC
    # 5 Les McCann Les McCann Sings Next Spring Pacific Jazz
    # 6 Milt Jackson Milt Jackson Quartet The Nearness of You Prestige
    # 7 Lester Young Complete Aladdin Recordings I Can't Get Started Blue Note
    # 8 Etta Jones My Buddy Whem My Man Comes Home High Note
    # 9 Lena Horne We'll Be Together Again Do Nothin' 'til You Hear from Me Blue Note
    Book Jennifer James, "Success Is the Quality of Your Journey"
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