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HOUSTON PERSON ORGAN TRIO
PIZZA EXPRESS, SOHO
Eighty-five-year old tenor saxophonist Houston Person of Florence, South Carolina, made his first album, Blue Odyssey, in 1968, the year that Martin Luther King was killed and thousands assembled in Washington in their tents and shanties for the Poor People’s Campaign.
As he belted his opener, Johnny Griffin’s Sweet Sucker, full of authority and defiance, he was joined on this Soho night by organist Ben Paterson and drummer Willie Jones III.
This was Sixties organ trio swing — and could they swing.
Person’s soulful horn — buoyant, rampant and fluid — gave plenty of comradely space to Paterson’s lucid, almost spoken notes, while Jones’s drums rocked the sweating Dean Street air.
A beautifully accomplished melodist, he played soft-blown ballads like The Way We Were or The Very Thought of You as if they poured directly from his heart.
Person is a survivor of a generation of soul-jazz legends — a contemporary of Stanley Turrentine, Sonny Stitt and Lou Donaldson — who has found his ideal now-times trio mates in confreres who could be his grandsons.
As his horn cried out on Lester Leaps In, it was as if his sound were reliving days of Civil Rights marches and powerful anti-war messages all over again for new 2019 understandings, and as he blew the serenely gentle Benny Carter love song, Only Trust Your Heart, the years tumbled away as if yesterday were now.
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