Saxophonist, flutist, keyboardist, composer and arranger Eric Person, who was born in St. Louis and trained at the St. Louis Conservatory of Music, continues his tradition to releasr good music that is questing, yet firmly planted in jazz's tradition with his latest CD, The Grand Illusion.
Among the artists Person has worked with include pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Dave Holland, drummer Chico Hamilton, Ben Harper, and Bootsy Collins, among others. Person has a tendency to not play it safe on his recordings, and thankfully, the same is true on this new recording.
Working this time with his own band, and not big name hired musicians, has led to some great rewards. There is greater interplay between the different musicians and Person gives each of the members of his band room to shine. The overall tone of the recording is not rushed, instead having the feel of good friends getting together to play some music they're all obviously digging.
Accompanying Person are bassists Chulo Gatewood and the late Bob Bowen. Gatewood lays down some very funky and non-radio, friendly, hip lines during his solo on "Carry On." Both bassists are supremely talented and truly understand how important it is to play the right notes with the right feel at the right time, in order for the music to say all it can.
Guitarist Cary DeNigris is a solid musician who knows when to come forward and when to lay back. A more difficult task than one would imagine, his ability to coordinate the harmonic outlining with keyboardist Zaccai Curtis shows the two to be of a singular mind. They not only do not clash, but they seem to fill in each other's thoughts about where the accompaniment should roam. This is most evident on "Carefree and Easy," where their rhythms interlock in a seemless web that is both flexible and translucent. Brandon Lewis' drums round out the ensemble in fine form.
Person is, as always, a monster. He doesn't do this by resorting to obvious tricks that illicit "ahs" and "moans" from audiences. Instead, he plays with a questing nature, looking for the empty spaces in the harmonic fabric, and then finds ways to exploit those characteristics others would avoid.
Maybe one of the reasons Person has not found the widespread favor among many jazz fans is for the same reason Woody Shaw never found wide acclamation; Frankly, both of them play music that is hard, and neither of them sit on their laurels or compose music that plays to easy recitation of pre-learned licks. Instead, both Person and Shaw force themselves to dig deeper, to find richer veins of melodic statement. With Person, it's as if he takes his time and glides over the easy chord changes, but when things get tricky, he finds ways to rifle off wonderful phrases of steller beauty. In the end, this is not an easily accessible recording, but like all of his work, it is one that is well worth the effort.