Sax player Person calls himself 'straggler;' his life says otherwise - Tucson Local Media: El Sol

Sax player Person calls himself 'straggler;' his life says otherwise

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Posted: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:09 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Houston Person, the acclaimed tenor saxophone player, came to Tucson years ago to perform for the Tucson Jazz Society.

"I had a ball," Person said last week from his home in Nyack, N.Y., near the Tappan Zee Bridge.

" I went to the movies in Tucson, on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning, a movie about crooked cops in New York. I had a rental car, and burned myself on the vinyl, the heat was so …. But I like Tucson. I always remember Tucson for having those morning movies."

Person is coming back to Tucson for a second straight year as part of the Jazz Legends concert presented by Al and Marilyn Cook and the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance. It's presented poolside at the Hilton El Conquistador in Oro Valley on Saturday, Sept. 18.

Person raves about the musicians he'll play with that Saturday night.

"These guys are well-rounded," Person said. "I know you'll hear a variety of things. Shelley Berg, the music director, he's a very talented guy. Scotty Barnhart, he's a great trumpeter."

Barbara Morrison is "a great singer." Drummer Frank Capp is another. "These guys are great musicians. I'm the straggler."

His biography suggests otherwise.

Person's playing "honors the great traditions of Gene Ammons, Illinois Jacquet, Stan Getz, and, before them, Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins," a release said. Person began working with jazz diva Etta Jones in 1973, and did so for nearly 30 years. He plays in clubs like Lenox Lounge in Harlem "to stay true to the roots of American jazz, but also tours the world." He is widely recorded, and remains in great demand for jazz events and festivals all over America.

Person grew up in South Carolina; in fact, he's just returned from Florence, S.C., where he was inducted into his high school athletic hall of fame as a football tackle. Person found the saxophone his junior year in high school.

"I found jazz long before I started playing," he said. And other music, too. Big bands. Rhythm and blues. He was in the church choir.

"I listened to everything," Person said. "Radio was my form of entertainment."

There were "a lot of different kinds of music in the South, country and western, gospel, pop music," Person said. He listens to all of it today. "It builds up my memory bank."

Person likes to hear the same song in a different genre, Willie Nelson singing a pop standard, Jo Stafford and "all that crazy stuff she did in country music." Doris Day was a favorite singer.

"I just like to think of it all as music," Person said. "Yeah, I know it has a slant toward, for me, the blues."

Person studied English with a minor in music at South Carolina State University. After the service, he went to the Hartt School in West Hartford, Conn. Once college was over, he "hit the road, and started doing crazy stuff. 1964,'65. I've been on the road ever since. But not constantly."

The life has been rewarding, with its good times and its hard times. "It's like any other profession," he said. "You know your clientele, and build fan bases. You gotta really love it to be in there."

Traveling to play music is not hard "if you enjoy it. Airports aren't any fun. I compensate (for) that by leaving early, doing everything early, going a day early to all my jobs, get in and rest for a day. It's not that bad. I like meeting people. I'm still stuck on wanderlust."

Person is "75 or 76, I don't know. You stop counting.

"I haven't hung 'em up yet. I'll just keep on going."

2010 Jazz Legends in Concert

Saturday, Sept. 18, 6:30 p.m.

Poolside at Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf and Tennis Resort, 10000 N. Oracle Rd.

$25 lawn seating, $50 poolside reserved seating, $85 poolside reserved seating with three-course dinner before concert, $350 for package including Friday and Saturday overnight accommodations at the resort, two poolside reserved seats with a three-course dinner prior to concert and breakfast on Sunday

http://www.saaca.org/events-jazzlegends.html

(520) 797-3959

The musicians

Shelly Berg, Piano and lead

Frank Capp, Drums

Houston Person, Tenor saxophone

John Allred, Trombone

Chuck Berghofer, Bass

Scotty Barnhart, Trumpet'

Barbara Morrison, Vocal

Sax master enjoys time with students

Tenor saxophonist Houston Person looks forward to workshops with students before the Jazz Legends concert Sept. 18 in Oro Valley.

When he worked with students a year ago at the University of Arizona, Person "met some wonderful musicians. We had an informal jam session. It was great."

This year, young musicians are meeting with the Jazz Legends at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador in Oro Valley that Saturday afternoon. The focus is on jazz, for those who want to expand their improvisation and performance skills.

In Person, they'll work with an authentic tenor sax master. But the opportunity works both says, he said.

"When you stress basics to students and other people, then you've got to go back and revisit them yourself," Person said. "What to do and what not to do. It has a way of hitting home. I learn a lot.

"We've got to pay attention to those same basic things that I'm teaching all the time. Being on time, making a nice presentation, and doing music that people can relate to. Every song doesn't have to be an educational experience. You've got to have fun with music."

—DPP

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