The gutsy and powerful attack that clearly marks Houston Person as one of our endearing "boss tenors" has kept him at the forefront of the popular mainstream for over three decades. Back in the mid-‘60s, Person would make his first splash in the big pool by appearing with organist Johnny Hammond Smith’s band, a mainstay of the club circuit and a popular act with the producers at Prestige Records. This ultimately led to Person’s own contract with Prestige, and while his first record for the label, UNDERGROUND SOUL, found the B-3 on board, his next three classic dates opted for a more conventional line-up. BLUE ODYSSEY continues to shine as Person’s last acoustic effort for Prestige and the only one to utilize a sextet format.
BLUE ODYSSEY’S strident and swashbuckling front line includes Person, Pepper Adams on baritone saxophone, and Curtis Fuller on trombone. Pianist Cedar Walton heads the rhythm section and also provides the arrangements and does so in a manner that distinguishes him as a master of small group jazz. The title track is of a soulful nature, with Walton’s rollicking left hand balanced by a roving three-note shout from the horns. "Holy Land" is another Walton classic (previously recorded by David "Fathead" Newman for Atlantic) that provides fodder for this most talented ensemble. Other highlights include "Funky London" and "Starrburst," the latter an attractive medium tempo cooker that is prototypical Person (he gets that "snap" in his sound that recalls fellow tough tenor, Stanley Turrentine).
Albeit short on playing time, just shy of 37 minutes, this disc has much to offer. Even engineer Richard Alderson manages to give the whole recording a sheen that is often lacking from the many efforts he recorded for Prestige during the late ‘60s. BLUE ODYSSEY is a true classic worthy or rediscovery.