Tenor saxophonist Houston Person has been friends with WBGO’s Bob Porter since the late 1960s. After hearing of Porter’s death on April 10 in Northvale, NJ, at the age 80, Person told the station’s Nate Chinen that Porter “loved our music, and he especially loved connecting jazz with the Black community. He was devoted to keeping alive that R&B link to jazz, though he was primarily a jazz producer.”
In addition to producing several of Person’s albums, Porter produced albums by many other jazz artists including saxophonists Gene Ammons and Hank Crawford, guitarist Pat Martino and organists Jimmy McGriff and Charles Earland. He coined the term “soul jazz” to describe the mixing of jazz and rhythm & blues.
Porter’s “Portraits in Blue” began as a syndicated radio show in 1981. He joined WBGO in 1979, hosting a two-hour Wednesday afternoon show. Recently, he recalled that, “Jazz was going through one of its down times, and I would play records that were out-of-print. The show was called ‘Rare But Well Done’. I was serving only as a volunteer. The first song I played was Count Basie and Joe Williams’ ‘Every Day I Have the Blues’. My theme song was Houston Person’s ‘Goodness’.”
Born in Wellesley, MA, on June 20, 1940, Porter grew up listening to popular jazz artists such as pianist Horace Silver and alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson. The first album he produced was organist Charles Kynard’s Professor Soul (Prestige: 1968). That was quickly followed by two other Prestige albums — Harold Mabern’s Rakin’ and Scrapin’ in 1968 and Person’s Soul Dance! In 1969.
Cause of death, according to his wife, Linda, was complications due to esophageal cancer.
(More on Bob Porter in the May issue of Jersey Jazz Magazine).