Saxophone Legend Deems Newark a Hub for Jazz

Steve Adubato sits down with tenor saxophonist, Houston Person, to discuss his musical career, his famous partnership with Etta Jones and how Newark has become a hub for jazz.

12/7/16 #1927






"We are honored to be joined by Houston Person, who is a jazz, tenor, saxophonist, record producer, and an icon, a legend in the field of jazz here at NJPAC. How are you? I'm fine, thank you. You were just saying, I said to you, we're taping here at NJPAC most of the day, I said I'm a little bit tired. And I said, you've traveled all over the world, and you said? I'm tired. You're tired! [laughter] You have more of a right to be. Let me ask you, you grew up in North Carolina? South Carolina. South Carolina, that's right. Yeah. Got exposed to music at what age? Early on, around, oh... I guess when I came into the world I was exposed to music. Music was always in my home. Always? Yeah. And back then, each... every home had a piano. And hardly play a piano, so to speak, and being a southerner, you know, you do, you go to church on Sunday. Hmm.So I was exposed to music everywhere, and when we had country and western music, so all these different styles of music, and there was nothing else to do but listen to music. So... When does jazz come into it? When I was around ten or eleven years old, I wasn't playing any instrument yet though, I was engaged in sports. Is that right? Yeah I was into sports until late high school. I want to jump, fast forward. When do you meet, and start working with, Etta James? Jones. Etta Jones, I'm sorry. Mm hmm. Oh, I had gone to school and I was, it was around, I'd say it around 1968, in Washington DC. Thirty years though? Yeah. Explain that collaboration. Well it was a wonderful collaboration, I always wanted a vocalist with my band. And she was a vocalist without a band. So it sort of, we sort of meld... made it around the same time, and wanting the same, had the same aspirations. And there were no egos involved so we stayed together for thirty five years. Wow. You know, jazz? Yes? Today? Versus, say thirty years ago? Forty years ago? Is is the same? Yes and no. Some of the fun has been taken out of it. And we've left some of the elements, we don't have... well some of the musicians don't have an appreciation for all of the elements, because well back in the day for us, used for another term, people danced to jazz. Hmm. And it was the dance music of the time. And you had more fun with it. And it had more of a bluesy... Hmm. ...bluesy point of view, I would say. And now, some of those elements are left out..."