Person, who will turn 80 in November, grew up in Florence, South Carolina and studied at South Carolina State College before joining the Air Force. While stationed in Germany, he played in a service band with future pros including Don Ellis, Eddie Harris and Cedar Walton, and after his discharge, continued his studies at Hartt College of Music in Connecticut.
His first wide recognition came in the early 1960s as a result of work with organist Johnny Hammond" Smith's band. Person then got his own contract with Smith's label, Prestige Records, and put out a series of albums that helped make his reputation as a successful bandleader in the soul-jazz genre. Later, he worked for many years touring and recording with vocalist Etta Jones, whom he met while both were with Smith.
Over the course of his career, Person has made more than 75 albums as a bandleader, and also has recorded with Bill Charlap, Charles Brown, Charles Earland, Lena Horne, Lou Rawls, Horace Silver, Dakota Staton, Billy Butler, Richard Groove" Holmes, and others. Since Etta Jones died in 2001, Person has continued to lead his own groups, but also works frequently as a guest soloist and a single, allying himself with other bandleaders, local house bands, and festival rhythm sections as the occasion warrants.
Those kind of gigs tend to rely on a standard repertoire shared among the musicians, and though Person made his rep in the soul-jazz genre, over the years he's also shown his skill at playing swing, ballads, and selections from the Great American Songbook," some examples of which are featured today.
First up is a version of Fools Rush In," recorded in October 2011 at the Lockerbie Jazz Festival in Scotland along with baritone saxophonist Alan Barnes and the Paul Harrison Trio.
Down below, it's Star Eyes," from the Norwich (CT) Jazz Party in May 2012, which also features Warren Vache (cornet), John Pearce (piano), Nicki Parrott (bass), and Bobby Worth (drums).
The third clip, recorded in June of last year at the Blue Note in NYC, features Person accompanying singer Tony Middleton on Time After Time" with pianist Joe Alterman, bassist James Cammack, and drummer Alex Raderman. Below that, Alterman, Cammack and drummer Justin Chesarek are backing up Person in the fourth video, a version of It Could Happen To You" recorded in June 2011 at Iridium in NYC.
The fifth and sixth videos both feature Person as a guest soloist with guitarist Peter Hand's big band in a 2011 concert at Centenary Theatre, Hackettstown, NJ. Thematically related though several decades apart in origin, the versions of Stormy Weather" and Sunny" both feature solos from Person, Hand and pianist James Weidman.
For more about Houston Person, check out this interview he did for a Jazz St. Louis podcast back in 2009, and this video interview with The Pace Report" from 2010.