It's hard to know what to think when jazz artists record popular songs. Are they recording them because they like the songs and think something new can be brought to them? Or are they hoping that by recording popular songs they too can become popular? Broken Windows, Empty Hallways includes two albums recorded by tenor Houston Person in 1972, the first of the same name and the second titled Sweet Buns & Barbeque. Both albums contain a number of songs that were popular at the time, from the soulful "Don't Mess With Bill" to John Lennon's "Imagine" to Webber-Rice's "Everything's Alright."
Saxophonist Houston Person and bassist Ron Carter have a duo partnership that goes back at least as far as their two 1990 recordings, Something in Common and Now's the Time! Since those albums, the legendary artists have released several more duo collaborations, each one a thoughtful and minimalist production showcasing their masterful command of jazz standards, blues, and bop. The duo's 2016 effort, the aptly titled Chemistry, is no exception and once again finds Person and Carter communing over a well-curated set of jazz standards. As on their previous albums, Chemistry is a deceptively simple conceit; just two jazz journeymen playing conversational duets on well-known jazz songs.
Houston Person's 2014 effort, The Melody Lingers On, is a romantic, laid-back set of songs showcasing the septuagenarian saxophonist. A journeyman artist with a bent toward swinging soul-jazz, Person has developed into something of an American treasure over the past 30 years. Since the '90s, Person has released a steady stream of standards albums, heavy on lyrical and blues-based songs that perfectly exploit his distinctive, burnished tenor drawl. The Melody Lingers On is no exception, featuring a set of songs heavily weighted toward an intimate, afterglow vibe centered on the warm sound of Person's saxophone.
"As full-bodied and comforting as home-baked apple pie" is one apt description of Houston Person's saxophone sound. Inasmuch as this simile attempts to convey the comforting, warm-hearted and accomplished nature of the tenorman's art, it is spot-on, but it must be remembered that Person's roots are in organ-centred R&B. So in addition to a velvety ballad technique Person also possesses an ability to imbue up-tempo material with an irresistible wailing intensity, so his crowd-pleasing bluesy numbers provide welcome variety to this judiciously balanced set.