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The man with the old beat-up sax

Who else made it to the Pine Grill Reunion on Sunday? I had fun!

The crowd was smaller than usual because of the on-again, off-again rain. But I got to hear the last two performers -- Houston Person, followed by drummer Winard Harper and his combo.

When you go to a great concert -- and the Pine Grill Reunion, held annually in Martin Luther King Park, is always a great concert -- there is always something you take away with you. What I loved most was Houston Person playing "The Way We Were." This is not a song you usually hear jazz musicians play. But it's a good song, by Marvin Hamlisch, who put in a few years as principal pops conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Hamlisch can turn out good tunes.

On saxophone, this song sounds great, especially played in the laid-back, conversational, wistful style that is Houston Person's hallmark when he plays ballads. I found the video up above on YouTube. It is not of Sunday's performance -- though we had the same drummer. Hahaaa.. it also looks as if it was filmed in a club -- and not free, like the Pine Grill Reunion, nyaah, nyaah.

Frustratingly the video cuts off the first few notes, and gives you just a bit of the song.

Still it will give you an idea of what we heard Sunday.

It has been such a pleasure to hear Houston Person here over the years. I treasure the memories of when he was at the Calumet Arts Cafe with his muse and life partner, Etta Jones. I always remember how beat-up and tarnished his sax was. It was funny but poignant too. They played the Pine Grill Reunion back in 2001 (I would not have guessed it was so long ago!) Both of them were nice to the crowd and posed for pictures. A few months later she was dead. That was a loss. She was a wonderful singer.

I feel sorry that Houston has to go on without her. It must be tough on him.

But God love him, here he is, 77, still traveling around with that beat-up sax.

Still giving it his all!

-- Mary Kunz Goldman



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