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The Opening Round

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Album Review

A fun and personable mix of jazz and soul classics plus a couple of originals by guitarist Rodney Jones, Houston Person's The Opening Round: Groove Masters Series, Vol. 1 isn't a jazz album for the ages, but it's start-to-finish entertaining. It's a straight-up groove album, with Person in front of a four-piece organ combo anchored by the legendary Bernard "Pretty" Purdie on drums next to ex-Waitresses-bassist-turned-session-star Tracy Wormworth. Joey DeFrancesco, a disciple of the late Jimmy McGriff, adds funky Hammond B-3 throughout, and the song selection seems to have been chosen specifically to highlight his interplay with Person. Heavy on the '70s soul classics, it features effective though hardly groundbreaking takes on classics like "What's Going On," "Let's Stay Together," and "When a Man Loves a Woman," staying close to the original melody lines but thankfully not replicating the original vocal parts on sax the way that so many smooth jazz lamers do. Moving back a bit, Person essays both the Showboat standard "Can't Help Lovin' That Man" and, surprisingly, the old folk tune "Shenandoah," which he and the group transform into a bittersweet, elegiac theme.


Born: 10 November 1934 in Florence, SC

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

In the 1990s, Houston Person kept the soulful thick-toned tenor tradition of Gene Ammons alive, particularly in his work with organists. After learning piano as a youth, Person switched to tenor. While stationed in Germany with the Army, he played in groups that also included Eddie Harris, Lanny Morgan, Leo Wright, and Cedar Walton. Person picked up valuable experience as a member of Johnny Hammond's group (1963-1966) and became a bandleader in the following years, often working with the late singer...
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The Opening Round, Houston Person
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