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Rain or Shine

Throughout his long career, which reaches back to at least 1963 when he recorded with organist Johnny "Hammond" Smith, Houston Person has always displayed a large tone inspired by Gene Ammons, the ability to caress melodies, and the knack for making every note count. One of the last of the great soul jazz tenors, Person has led over 70 albums in his career including many for Prestige during the late 1960s/early 70's and quite a few for the Muse and High Note labels since 1976. Rain Or Shine is at least his 24th CD for High Note.

While there is no shortage of Houston Person albums, each of his records are worth hearing. The most recent release, Rain Or Shine, teams him with pianist Lafayette Harris, guitarist Rodney Jones, bassist Matthew Parrish, drummer Vincent Ector and, on five of the nine numbers, cornetist Warren Vache.

Person, who is now 82 but shows no sign of decline, is showcased on four ballads with the rhythm section. He starts "Everything Must Change" out of tempo before engaging in his musical preaching at a medium tempo. Rodney Jones' guitar playing is particularly soulful on this track. Person revives "I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone" and the Johnny Ace 1950 r&b hit "Never Let Me Go" (taken as a relaxed pace). He also shows a lot of affection towards the melody of "Danny Boy."

The numbers with Vache include a medium-slow "Come Rain Or Come Shine," the catchy mid-1960s Blue Note-type soul jazz groove "132nd And Madison," a joyful reading of "Learnin' The Blues," and Rodney Jones' "Soupbone." The latter is a blues-with-a-bridge piece with a memorable theme, some Person tenor playing worthy of Stanley Turrentine, and happy cornet, guitar and piano solos. "Soupbone" deserves to become a standard.

One certainly does not need a music degree in order to enjoy Person's Rain Or Shine. The swinging pieces, rhythmic grooves, and warm ballads are quite accessible yet full of subtle creativity. Vache, Harris and Jones each show plenty of personality during their relatively concise solos while Houston Person keeps the legacy of big-toned melodic tenors very much alive.

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Scott Yanow