By Deardra Shuler
Houston Person, the tenor saxophonist, who is best known for his mastery of hard bop, has played every musical genre from gospel to disco and R&B to pop, with even some blues thrown in. A house tenor for years for High Note Records and a producer in his own right, Person is once again lending his talents to the Swiss Global Artistic Foundation/ The Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center (OSPAC) Ninth Annual Jazz Festival slated for Friday, September 16 and Saturday, September 17 from 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm where the likes of Nat Adderly Jr., and Claudio Roditi will be part of the Festival line-up.
“This is an event I highly recommend,” said Person, who has performed with the Jazz Festival several times over the years. “It’s a good place for artist and community to meet since many of the artists live in New Jersey where the outdoor event is being held in West Orange. “Every year the Festival has different events, like craft vendors, food vendors and even offer massage. It’s really offers a pleasant family arena by a lake where kids can find fun things to do as well.”
Although born in Newberry, South Carolina, Person was raised in Florence, South Carolina. His parents were very fond of music so Houston often heard it in his home. He later expanded upon it by singing in his Church Choir and then joining the Glee club. “I signed up for the military and while there met other musicians. I played with the guys and then once I left the Service, I attended SC State College and followed that by attending Harrt College of Music in Hartford, Connecticut. After college, I hit the club scene, formed my own band and later met Etta Jones, who became part of my band. She and I had a 30 year professional relationship and toured quite a lot together. In fact we worked together until Etta’s passing in 2001,” recalled the talented musician.
Houston Person is scheduled to perform at 2:00 on Saturday, September 17th as part of the Ninth Annual Jazz Festival. Emceed by WBGO-FM’s Gary Walker, the line-up includes: Ali Jackson Quintet featuring Hope Boykin of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater; Houston Person Quartet; Nat Adderley, Jr. Quartet featuring Dave Stryker; Sheila Jordan Quartet featuring Steve Kuhn with Cameron Brown; world-renowned pianist Bill Charlap; Brazilian All-Stars: Romero Lubambo, Nilson Matta, and Claudio Roditi; Kate Baker, Vic Juris, Ralph LaLama, Anthony PInciotti and Harvie S; Bob DeVos and Oscar Perez with the West Orange/NJ All Stars featuring Mike Lee, Ed Howard, Vince Ector and more, with special guests Pam Purvis, Kevin Burke and other vocalists. The festival will also present The Young Lions with Joe Alterman and Marcus Miller; and upcoming artist, guitarist/singer Dida with special guest Enrico Granafei.
Renowned jazz singer and OSPAC Executive Director/Swiss Global Jazz Advisor, Kate Baker commented on the Festival. "The Swiss Global/OSPAC Jazz Festival has grown in the past nine years to be the most talked-about jazz event in the area. This year’s event will be more spectacular than ever. Our lineup of artists is an international mix of quintessential jazz stylists and modern and cultural jazz interpreters.” Heather de Haes, the Swiss Global Executive Director added to Kate’s comment stating: “What makes this venue special is not only the beautiful surroundings where you can stroll around the lake, but the superb sound that you can hear from every location.”
“I have to also add that the Festival is a place where community can come together at reasonable expense. It’s nice to know that in today’s economy tickets for adults are only $10, $5.00 for seniors and children get in for free,” added Houston who has worked with and recorded with the likes of Lena Horne, Ron Carter, vocalist Barbara Morrison, Ernie Andrews, Ernestine Anderson, Della Griffin and Dakota Staton. His appearances as sideman are legion. His recordings also feature Etta Jones, Lou Rawls, Horace Silver, Charles Earland, Joey DeFrancesco, and many others. As a record producer, he has worked with many artists, including Etta Jones, Freddy Cole, Charles Brown, David ‘Fathead’ Newman, Dakota Staton, and Ernie Andrews. In 1990, he recorded along with Ron Carter, “Something in Common,” winning the Independent Jazz Record of the Year Award. He also received an Indie Award for “Why Not?” He was awarded the prestigious Eubie Blake Jazz Award (1982) and the Fred Hampton Scholarship Fund Image Award (1993). His honors include a "Houston Person/Etta Jones Day," awarded to him in 1982 by Hartford County, MD and again in 1983, in Washington, DC. Houston Person has recorded multiple albums for HighNote Records as both tenor artist and producer. Some of these recordings, “My Buddy: Etta Jones Sings the Songs of Buddy Johnson” and “Etta Jones Sings Lady Day,” were Grammy finalists in the Best Jazz Vocal category in 1999 and 2000, respectively.
During the two day event of September 16-17, jazz fans can find Houston Person and other jazz greats performing in the Amphitheatre at Crystal Lake, located at 4 Boland Drive, West Orange, NJ. Interested parties can call 973-669-7385 and/or go on line by visiting www.OSPAC.org for the program schedule and travel and ticket information. In case of inclement weather, a rain date has been set for Saturday, September 24th.