Born in Florence, South Carolina in 1934, Person played piano before taking up tenor saxophone at age 17. After Army duty in Germany, where he played with such musicians as Don Ellis, Eddie Harris, and Cedar Walton, he studied at Hartt College of Music in Hartford, Connecticut. Person made his recording debut in 1965 on a Prestige album by organist Johnny “Hammond” Smith and, after forming his own band in the early Seventies, continued featuring organ players. In 1986, the saxophonist stopped using organists on the road and hired pianist Stan Hope, who’s been with him ever since.
Person, whose influences include Gene Ammons, Illinois Jacquet, Harold Land, Hank Mobley, and Sonny Stitt, has for many years booked his own gigs and produced his own records. Veteran jazz singer Etta Jones, best known for her 1960 hit “Don’t Go to Strangers” on Prestige, was the featured vocalist with Person’s combo from 1973 until her death in 2001. He produced numerous albums by Jones for the Muse and High Note labels, as well as discs for Ernie Andrews, Charles Brown Joey DeFrancesco, Charles Earland, Red Holloway, David “Fathead” Newman, Richard Wyands, and others.