Q&A: Houston Person
The soulful tenor sax of Houston Person is always pleasant on the ears. Whether he is fronting his own group, blowing a groovin’ solo or playing alongside and supporting the late Etta Jones, Houston’s uncanny gift of being able to send any note right smack into your heart is something only few can do. His warm toned sax filled with rich improvisational expression is not fancy, and he doesn’t dazzle you with chops galore, but the content he generates from his horn comes straight from his soul and pierces yours right where it counts. And he’s been doing this consistently for fifty years plus! Houston is not only a beautiful horn player. He’s also happens to be funny, deep and warm as can be as you will see in our Q&A.
How or when did you first “discover” jazz?
I first discovered jazz when I was a kid growing up in South Carolina. My parents were always listening to lots of music so I heard it at home and then I had friends who liked jazz and from there, it just grew.
What was the first record (jazz or otherwise) you ever purchased?
Oh, man – I don’t know if I can remember the first record. It must have been either a Dinah Washington or Buddy Johnson.
Name at least one jazz recording that says it all for you and why?
Damn, there are tons of recordings that say it all for me. I could never pick just one. Over the years, there’s been so many – anything from Horace Silver, Lou Donaldson, Milt Jackson, Miles Davis, Lester Young, Lee Konitz, Lennie Tristano – the list just goes on and on.
What are you listening to right now?
Oh yeah, I’ve been listening to an album by Charles Brown with Ben Webster and Art Tatum. I’ve also been listening to an Ivan Lins record. I can’t remember the names of the albums. I’m laying in bed right now and you don’t want to make me get up.
What is your favorite escape?
I’ve got a few escapes. I love to play Scrabble. I’ve got the traveler’s version for when I’m on the road and then I have a real nice deluxe model board at home. That really gets my mind off things. I also like to go up to Maine when I’ve got some time off. It’s beautiful up there.
Who or what inspires you?
Ha, Ha, Ha. Divine Intervention, probably.
If your life came with a theme song, what would it be?
Oh, I know that one. “If I Ruled the World” – I love that song. It’s along the lines of if I ruled the world, there would be no hunger, no poverty and people would love one another.
What influence has jazz had on your life?
Jazz pretty much is my life. It’s a microcosm of life, freedom with discipline.
If you could have three wishes, what would they be?
My first wish would be that people could learn to live together. My second wish is that people would go back to caring for one another. I’ve seen that in my lifetime, but not so much anymore. My third wish would be my first wish all over again – people learning to live together – then everything would be getting better.
Complete the following: Everybody needs a little jazz in their life because… it’s spiritually uplifting. It’s a spiritual music – everything is instant, spontaneous and from the heart. In its principle form, it lifts the heart.