St. Louis born and St. Louis Conservatory of Music trained saxophonist, flutist, composer and arranger Eric Person has built a solid reputation within jazz circles. His dedication to finding new harmonic and rhythmic possibilities while staying true to jazz’s traditional structures has led the upper echelon of jazz masters, such as pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Chico Hamilton, among others, to hire the young phenom for their bands. As a leader Person’s recordings, beginning with Prophecy, his 1993 debut on Soul Note, have not only garnered great reviews but have shown Person to be a questing soul who exchanges the path well tread in favor of pushing his own limits.
On Rhythm Edge Person continues to follow his own singular vision through 16 tracks that, while they sometimes skate near the outside edge of hard-bop tonality, continue to confirm him as a musician of high-minded and exceptionally dedicated processes. On "The Multitudes," for example, the shift to a quasi-swing styled section during the solo portion allows Person to both comment on jazz’s history and its future at the same time. Starting out of a loose Horace Silver-ish quasi Latin-based melodic and rhythmic contour, Person begins his solo by presenting just a few short melodic fragments. Quickly combining these into longer phrase structures Person then, just as quickly, turns everything around by devolving them during an overtly swing-based segment.
By emphasizing the transitory nature of the opening fragments within the context of swing, Person demonstrates not only his singular vision but one that is based on negating any previously conceived conceptual formulas. Swing, usually associated with improvised lines catering to extended flowing melodies, instead in the hands of Person, becomes a means of reflective patterning and reordering of initially presented melodic shapes. By changing the expectations swing prescribes, Person ends up moving so far inside his own solo all that’s left by its end are the initial motives now presented in reordered and truncated form.
This high level of intellectual thought process is obvious on every tune. Person shows wit on "Reach," avant-garde leanings on "All out in the open" and bop proclivities on "Supersonic." That Person transcends the scholarliness of his work and is able to imbibe every solo with an emotive quality that perfectly matches the spirit of each tune’s melody shows the saxophonist to also be an artist with a soulful heart. Technical ability, which Person has tons of, is always used in bringing forth his ideas, and never used for its own sake, is yet another indication Person is ready for much bigger things. It shouldn’t be long before Person begins to gain the more widespread attention his abilities mandate. Those not familiar with this young jazz master would do well to start with this disc.