Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Houston Person So Nice 2011

I like jazz. I really do. I tend to go for piano and guitar combos, and I love the small group interplay. But I'm not hard core. I like to be able to hear a melody, and I don't like loud, skronky horn players. Trumpets and saxes, especially, are often just too forward, too in-your-face for my tastes. Hard bop and edgy fusion just wear me out.  So there's a lot of jazz that turns me off because it's just a little too, well, jazzy. Too much crazy improvisation that sounds like a blur of notes just to make a blur of notes.

I get that there is more going on than I can appreciate in this music. I can certainly understand that there are people who do get it, and love the wild abandon and constant surprises, the unexpected twists and musical puzzles unraveled that the most progressive and transcendent jazz serves up to the devoted.

Nor do I like, on the other end of the jazz spectrum, the smooth jazz that has become the staple of the adult mellow music radio formats. That stuff plays like the benign dentist office, elevator piped-in Muzak of a justly forgotten past.

In the middle there are some special players who are still jazz, but they take an easy to hear approach that is relaxed and laid back without being anything like pop music. The players are hot, but they only get some much time to show it, and nuance of expression is valued over technical excess.

Houston Person is a perfect example. His sax tone is fat and smooth, his solos are invested with the knowledge of a guy who recorded his first record in 1966, and he's accompanied by a fine supporting cast, including guest soloists on trumpet, trombone and guitar. He plays mostly standards, but he brings something new every time. It's laid back, but nobody is laying back.

The perfect middle ground. Goldilocks would approve.

No comments:

Post a Comment