Eric Person (born 1963 in St. Louis, Missouri) is an American alto and soprano saxophone player and leader of Meta-Four and Metamorphosis. Since coming to New York City in 1982, Person has performed with a who's who list of legends on the jazz and rock scene. He's performed and recorded with jazz masters:McCoy Tyner, Dave Holland, Chico Hamilton, John Hicks and World Saxophone Quartet. In rock, funk and world music:Vernon Reid, Ben Harper, Ofra Haza and Bootsy Collins. Person is also on over fifty recordings as a leader and sideman.
Eric Person started music at an early age, picking up the alto saxophone at age seven. His father Thomas Person also a saxophonist started him off with the basics of the instrument, and concept of improvisation. He later sent his son to study privately at different music stores. Eric picked up the saxophone quickly, but it wasn't until his family moved from the city of St. Louis, to the county of Normandy, and he enrolled in Thomas Jefferson Elementary School that a passion for performing and studying music caught fire in him. After he entered Normandy Jr High School he started getting into more and more ensembles in and out of school. While at Normandy Jr high he was in the jazz band, concert band, and competed in his first classical competition where he was given a perfect score. Outside of school he would be in two R&B bands The Black Warriors Express and The Soulful Young Band. Both bands would perform local gigs, and some regional touring. In 1977, Eric entered Normandy High School. It was the beginning of an exciting period of discovery for Eric. Normandy High School had one of the top music programs in the state of Missouri and Eric tried to take part in as many bands as he could. He would join the marching band, concert bands, and one of the three jazz bands. He would later become part of the top jazz band, The Norsemen. While still in high school, he would attend the St. Louis Conservatory of Music, and a Saturday afternoon jazz theory class at Washington University. In 1978, While the jazz band was winning many awards at high school jazz competitions throughout Missouri, Eric won a best soloist award, which included a scholarship to attend a Jamey Abersold jazz camp that Summer. There he studied under pianist James Williams and heard many top shelf New York City jazz musicians such as Dave Liebman, Jim McNeely and Adam Nussbaum. There he also met St.louis pianist James "Ironhead" Matthews, he would join his jazz quartet for the next four years playing clubs around St.louis such as The Barbary Coast, The Place of Pleasure and Mr. B's in East St. Louis. Eric was living and learning jazz, playing with professionals, getting paid and this was wetting his appetite for more challenges. Around this time he composed his first jazz compositions. He found he had a love for composition and set about composing with the goal of expressing his personal ideas through song. His composition, Magenta which he wrote at age 18, is a personal favorite which he recorded on his Live at Big Sur CD, which was released in 2002. By the time Eric graduated high school in 1980 he was restless. He was hearing the call of greener pastures. He was reading about his idols in the Jazz Spotlight News that he subscribed to. It showed what was happening on the New York City jazz scene. So that Summer he took a trip to New York City with James "Ironhead" Matthews, a trip that would change his life. He knew the "Big Apple" was the place to be. He came back to St. Louis with the goal of coming back to New York in three months. His father, who was all for his adventure, suggested that he stay home one year to save up some money, and "tie up some loose ends." It was wise advise which he heeded. In that year he studied with woodwind teacher Lloyd Smith, and took theory and piano classes at Florrisant Valley Community college while finishing up his stint with the James "Ironhead" Matthews quartet.
1982-92 New York City
Eric arrived in New York City on May 17, 1982. He played his first New York City gigs with the John Hicks Big Band at the Public Theater. Drummer Ronnie Burrage took him to Washington D.C to play a gig that included a young Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Kirkland and Avery Sharpe. Person also formed an early quartet that included guitarist Cary Denigris, bassist Kevin Bruce Harris and drummer Ronnie Burrage. That group rehearsed once a month at the now defunct Air Studios, and performed two explosive performances in St. Louis and at a club called Eric's in New York city. As the months rolled on into 1983, during the Spring and Summer months Eric spent his days practicing his horn outside on Riverside Drive. He either practiced there or in the back of a numbers joint on West 145th street, because the owner of the rooming house where he lived at would not allow him to play his horn there. During the week he went to sit-in at an old jazz club called The Blue Book. In that same year he auditioned for drummer Chico Hamilton. He would perform with Mr. Hamilton off and on throughout the 80's and 90's, touring and recording six CD releases with him.
In 1984 he joined Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society. This gave Person his first extensive European touring and recording opportunities. He would play with Shannon till 1987, and record six recordings with him.
1993-98 New Horizons
Throughout the 90's Eric continued to be featured with some high power groups. In 1993 he joined the World Saxophone Quartet. Person immediately went into the studio and contributed to the CD the band was finishing, Moving Right Along on Black Saint. He contributed two songs to that recording, "Antithesis" and "Sharrod." His first tour with the band was a California tour that featured three African drummers. From 1994 to 1997 Person was a member of the Dave Holland Quartet, which toured Europe, the United States and Canada. The band's success culminated in their recording of Dream Of The Elders on ECM. Also During this time Eric released his first three CD releases on Soul Note Records. Arrival, Prophecy and More Tales to Tell all garnered favorable reviews. About "Arrival" and "Prophecy" Down Beat wrote:
3.5 Stars - Person [is] swerving toward the left, finding a fresh path between mainstream jazz and chancier, more personalized terrain....In addition to his bold playing, Person has some fine compositional ideas...
4 Stars - (Prophecy) shows his bold alto and soprano to be as in touch with complex gradations of joy as...with precise shadings of melancholy. Self-probing compositions and his examinations of time-honored music are utterly fascinating...
Person recorded with soul rock singer/guitarist Ben Harper, on his CD The Will to Live. The CD peaked at number 89 on the Billboard 200. It also went gold in France. Person also arranged a three piece horn section that performed throughout California, in New York City, Paris and London. The performance at Royal Albert Hall was videotaped and released Pleasure+Pain. It features the horns on three Ben Harper classics, and with Eric performing a burning saxophone solo on the final song.
After his first CD releases on Soul Note Records, Eric decided to form his own label Distinction Records to control and produce all levels of his product. The labels first release, Extra Pressure was released in 1999 and featured the first version of his jazz group Meta-Four. The band included pianist John Esposito, bassist Carlos Henderson and drummer E.J.Strickland. The band toured in the USA and Canada. In 2002 Person released Live at Big Sur with a new version of Meta-Four which featured pianist John Esposito, bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Peter O'Brien. This band played the 2002 Guimarães Jazz Festival in Portugal.
In 2005 Person released his sixth CD Reflections as a collective statement that summed up his favorite compositions and performances from his first five releases. Three dynamic performances from the 1998 Texaco Jazz Festival featuring trumpeter Dave Douglas were added. After extensive touring in 2005 and 2006, Eric kicked off a four week United States tour with his seventh CD Release Rhythm Edge. This CD would feature his then current Meta-Four band and special guests Robin Eubanks, Ingrid Jensen, Cary Denigris and Daniel Sadownick. Since 1994 his band Meta-Four has been featured in clubs, concerts, masterclasses and festivals across the USA, Canada and Europe.
In 2008 Person premiered a new band, Metamorphosis which unlike his four piece jazz group Meta-Four delves into funk, rock, groove and electric soundscapes.
In 2010 Person released his eighth CD release, The Grand Illusion. He calls this his "rhythm and groove" project. This CD features guitarist Cary Denigris, keyboardist Zaccai Curtis, and the late bassist Robert "Bob" Bowen. Critic Donald Elfman states: "Saxophonist Eric Person seems to find something new to say and a different direction to follow with every project he undertakes...the music seems daring at this time, recalling the jazz/funk experiments of the past, and the commitment of the players makes it work"
Person's 2012 release Thoughts on God is his first CD to feature music performed by a large ensemble. This ensemble of thirteen musicians perform a suite of twelve compositions written to glorify the creator.
Glenn Astarita of All About Jazz.com says: "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...branded by his personalization of the jazz idiom, teeming with impressive compositions and inspiring arrangements."
Michael McDowell of Blitz Magazine says, "He (Person) has definitely joined Coltrane in having produced an enduring work that will stand as a hallmark of the genre."
Amy Duncan of Jazz History online.com says, "Thoughts on God is an exciting and satisfying presentation from an inspiring and original new voice in large jazz ensemble writing."
Scott Albin of Jazztimes says, "Person's fifth release on his Distinction Records label, and his first orchestral work, this is probably his greatest achievement to date..."
In 1987 Person formed "Sources" a duo with tabla/sirod/acoustic guitar performer Bob Coke. The music blended elements of avant gard jazz, open Indian grooves, and innovative soundscapes. The group toured Western France, Eastern USA, and New York City clubs and galleries. In 1990 Person was featured soloist with the New York City Symphony for a performance of Duke Ellington`s Three Black Kings at the Apollo Theatre in New York City. It was the first time a full symphony orchestra had performed at the world famous New York City venue.
Person has also performed with (piano) Michiel Borstlap, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Michelle Rosewoman, (drums) Joe Chambers, Franklin Kiermyer, Michael Carvin, (vocalists) Jimmy Scott, Ofra Haza, and Jennifer Holiday, (Belgium percussionist) Chris Joris, guitarist Kelvyn Bell and Bassist/funkmaster Bootsy Collins. Person is also on unreleased tracks featuring rapper Chuck D. An April 2009 concert in Rochester New York titled "Person to Person" brought together two generations of saxophonists: Eric Person and Houston Person. The wildly enthusiastic crowd guaranteed there would be more performances in the future from this collaboration. Person also debuted another project with 2008 Down Beat critics poll elected vocalist Dwight Trible. The two were backed by Person's band, Meta-Four West in a performance at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and at the Santa Monica Community College.
In the Fall of 2010 a collective with bassist Joe Lepore and drummer Shinnosuke Takahashi was formed from a series of jam sessions at the bassists home. The group was named TrioKinesis recorded and released their debut CD TrioKinesis in 2012.
- (1993) Arrival
- (1994) Prophecy
- (1997) More Tales To Tell
- (1999) Extra Pressure
- (2003) Live at Big Sur
- (2005) Reflections
- (2007) Rhythm Edge
- (2010) The Grand Illusion
- (2012) Thoughts on God