Saxophonist Eric Person takes a detour from his usual stylistic terrain for his eighth album. Person, known for working in a more conventional postbop style, blends funk, rock and R&B into a vibrant modern stew over the course of these nine robust tunes and four brief interludes, all of them originals.
He switches among tenor, alto and soprano saxes, as well as backing keyboards and samples, and he plays each with muscle and sensuality. “More Tales to Tell” has him blowing strong, funky lines over a steady groove. “Carefree and Easy” is just that, Person playing a sweet, happy melody with a tone and approach reminiscent of Kenny Garretts.
“From the first chorus of “Magenta” you know saxophonist Eric Person has the chops and the compositional skills to make interesting, listenable music without pandering to any preconceived notions about what modern jazz should be.”
Jazz Series Review
“If you’ve never heard Eric Person, I urge you to get him in your ears.”
Roman St. James
“Live at Big Sur recaptures the experience, diverse jazz styles, and joie de vivre of the Seventh Annual Big Sur JazzFest. Recorded in 2002 during two performances on May 4th and 5th, the hard-swinging bebop, free funk, and hard bop sonic expressions of Eric Person & Meta-Four provoked significant applause throughout both sets.
Emanating rich, clean lines, and sophisticated straight-ahead jazz sax colors, Eric Person, who plays both soprano and alto saxophones, was accompanied by his rotating ensemble that consisted of John Esposito on piano, Kenny Davis on five-string electric bass, and Pete O’Brien on drums. Person’s original compositions — “Reach,” “I”ll Be Just Fine,” and “Magenta” — are recorded here for the first time. Songs such as “Survival Instincts” and “Issues (Yours Not Mine)” appear on two of Person’s previously released CDs. The environmentally friendly Live at Big Sur is Person’s fifth recording as a leader and second with Meta-Four and superbly maximizes their diverse musical gifts in a unique, serene setting.”
Although it is not obvious from the outside of this CD, Reflections mostly contains previously released selections drawn from three of altoist Eric Person’s Soul Note albums and two from the Distinction label. Person picked the numbers himself and feels that these performances are among the finest of his career.
Based on their creativity, intensity, and brilliant playing, Person is correct. He is heard on both alto and soprano, mostly with several different piano-bass-drums rhythm sections. Flutist Jim Finn is on two selections, guitarist Cary DeNigris is on four, and the pianist is usually John Esposito.
The post-bop playing is full of fire, high musicianship, and inventive ideas. Uplifting Reflections from being merely a “best of” set is the inclusion of three selections (“K.T.,” “The Ringleader,” and “Etc.”) from a previously unreleased live performance in 1998. The live performances (pity that they are not extensive enough to fill up an entire CD by themselves) feature Person with trumpeter Dave Douglas in a particularly exciting quintet, rounding out a very impressive package. This CD is easily recommended to listeners not already owning Eric Person’s Soul Note and Distinction recordings.
“Person is from St. Louis. Like most of his homeboys, he cultivates a sheer beauty of sound that’s often breathtaking. Listen to the round, full yet emotional sound he gets on soprano, an instrument that is almost impossible to listen to after a decade of degradation by smooth jazz candyman. On alto too, his sound is big and singing with a hint of bluesy smoke. This is an artist that demands and rewards your attention.”
Signal to Noise
Reflections is an enjoyable selection of saxophonist Eric Person’s music from 1993 to 2003, culled from five CDs, plus three previously unreleased tracks recorded at the 1998 Texaco Jazz Festival. All the pieces showcase Person’s impeccable chops, which combined with his warmth, intelligence, and wry humor, make him a very special talent indeed.
There’s not a false note on the whole collection, but several songs in particular stand out. “Perfection” has an angular melody and unique conception; Person’s sax perfectly captures the human plight of reaching for the unattainable, and John Esposito’s lyrical piano provides the ideal complement to Person’s strength and fluidity. “Mr. More or Less” has an unabashedly pretty melody, but with an undeniable tinge of irony. Person shapes his notes beautifully, and he’s totally simpatico with flutist Jim Finn’s light, lovely runs. Bassist Dave Holland appears on this track as well, giving the tune further backbone. “Reach!” is a marvelous, spirit-lifting song with warm, cheerful energy, and “Ancient Sun” is flat-out beautiful, a gentle, evocative ballad with spacious electric guitar sounds by Cary Denigris.
Ten of these twelve tracks are Person originals, and he proves himself to be a gifted, original composer. The musicians are uniformly excellent, including trumpeter Dave Douglas on the Texaco Jazz Festival cuts. Person has been on the jazz scene for over twenty years now, leading his own groups and playing with heavies like McCoy Tyner, Donald Byrd, and Chico Hamilton. He’s integrated all of his experience and hard work into a distinctive voice, and Reflections is an excellent summation of this versatile, expressive musician’s work—thus far.
“Person takes his alto and soprano into the stratosphere with soaring solos…with all his talent, it is good to see him concentrating on the leader’s role.”
Cadence Jazz Magazine
Revered saxophonist Eric Person parlays God’s message via the jazz vernacular, his spiritual ascension and unbridled fortitude equating to one of the finest modern jazz outings of 2012. Here, Person interlinks the Duke Ellington/Charles Mingus connection, branded by his personalization of the jazz idiom, teeming with impressive compositions and inspiring arrangements.
Tinted by a little big band sound, bop, and jaunty soloing extravaganzas by the thirteen-piece ensemble, the musicians wind down a few notches on “Never Far From His Grace.” It’s a strikingly beautiful composition rooted on a simple, sublime melody line amid flowing evocative and meditative qualities.
Equal parts music therapy, prayer, and spiritually charged jazz balladry, Person and baritone saxophonist Scott Robinson render contrasting, conversational dialogues, circular phrasings and the horn section’s multilayered toppings. Yet the melodically rich content does not surge towards a sugary theme; instead, it’s more about prismatic hues and a pinnacle of lucidly executed movements. Person raises the pitch in spots, but the title “Never Far From His Grace,” says it all. His strong faith and unyielding focus seeds a production that intimates the miracle powers of jazz.
“Saxman Eric Person turned in a deeply impressive show in November at the Blue room. Person and his Meta-Four band played with a singleness of purpose that we never hear enough of. Each player seemed concerned with pushing the others to play their best-and they did.”
Kansas City Star
This fleet suite of 78 minutes fans out like a brilliant kaleidoscope of musical events, dovetailing thematic ideas and playful brief solos.
After an elastic spooky turn on the Jerome Kern classic “Yesterday,” a panoply of 13 originals leads down merry paths of ear-tweaking modes and startling arpeggiated lines at rattlingly good but often-shifting tempos. Rhythm Edge impresses with top-notch musicianship but always keeps you guessing.
Who is this charmed and charming Person and what is his Meta-Four? Reedman Eric Person has logged veteran time in distinguished bands (Chico Hamilton, Dave Holland, World Saxophone Quartet). His open-minded largesse is manifest in an enigmatic yet daring compositional approach that occasionally features smart and subtle twin keyboarding and multi-reed overdubs. His seductively serpentine linear conception as soloist creeps into his writing as smoothly as a snake among reeds.
Meta-Four is Person’s present working quartet, a continually collaborative ensemble, as evidenced by the turn-on-a-dime dynamics and pacing of “Reach.” Cohort Jerod Kashkin plays agile piano and keyboard (sometimes simultaneously) and dependably whips out fine solos. The rhythm team of bassist Adam Armstrong and drummer Peter O’Brien burbles along, gamely shifting patterns and directions according to the tunes’ whims and soloists’ darting, while holding to the tight pocket and nailing some tasty bits, with Armstrong on a sidewise blues, O’Brien under brass tutti on the title track.
Cameos ebb and flow. Guitarist Cary DeNigris (a 20-year collaborator) solos on the fiery “Supersonic” but comps neatly elsewhere. Trombonist Robin Eubanks percolates on the 6/8 “Pendulum Swing” and conga-spiced storm-gathering “Multitudes.” Trumpeter Ingrid Jensen has her neat say on the closing romp “Tyner Town” (dedicated to another ex-boss of Person’s, McCoy Tyner) but inserts a disembodied Miles-ian coda on “Reach.” In this aural tapestry are interwoven synth colors and brass fanfares while stray threads of voice and tabla serve as bright exclamation points. Amid the fray, a welcome ballad set (“Sunset” and “Beauty”) finds the leader in a calm oasis on his liquid yet potent soprano.
“Eric Person is a conjurer. This St.Louis saxman and his new group, Meta-Four transcend the common terrain of jazz. In a post-bop era in which it is perilously easy for all saxophone improvisers to sound alike, Person lights up the scene with very rare lyricism and lush originality. Each of his nuanced compositions, from the subdued ballads to his frenetic riffing, embarks on an entirely new mood. Dynamics, rhythms, tempos shift freely, creating an invigorating musical texture. Person’s discourse with pianist John Esposito and Bassist Danton Boller is truly engrossing.”
Metro Santa Cruz
Eric Person (who doubles on alto and soprano) gained his initial recognition for his work with Chico Hamilton. His Meta-Four group is a quartet also featuring pianist John Esposito, bassist Carlos Henderson and drummer E.J. Strickland.
They perform melodic and relaxed post-bop music, taking their time to develop their ideas. Person wrote all but one piece on this CD and the music in general is both accessible and explorative, sometimes using catchy light grooves. This is a set that grows in interest with each listen, well worth exploring.