Grover Washington Jr. Day

December 12, 1943 – December 17, 1999

 

A tribute to the popular saxophonist

Tenor, alto and soprano-saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. was born on December 12, 1943 in Buffalo, New York.

The son of a saxophonist, he began playing tenor when he was eight, developing quickly as a musician.

He worked with the Four Clefs and the Mark III. Trio in the Midwest before serving in the U.S. Army.

After his discharge, Washington spent time freelancing in New York and Philadelphia, making his recording debut in 1970 with Charles Earland, Boogaloo Joe Jones and Leon Spencer.

Washington was part of sessions in 1971 with Melvin Sparks, Johnny “Hammond” Smith and Dr. Lonnie Smith before making his first record as a leader, the hit soul jazz album Inner City Blues.

By then he had a personal sound not only on tenor but on alto, soprano and baritone, bridging the gap between hard bop, soul jazz and funk.

Washington made several albums (often as a sideman) for Kudu and CTI before really hitting it big in 1974 with “Mister Magic,” which made him a major star at festivals and concerts.

Although he could play bebop well (recording with Kenny Burrell and Dexter Gordon) and always stretched himself in concerts, Washington became known as a leader in “contemporary” jazz and one of the early founders of what came to be known as “smooth jazz” though he could easily outplay his imitators.

1980s Winelight, which included “Just The Two Of Us,” added to the momentum of Washington’s career which lasted until his untimely death in 1999.

Here is Grover Washington Jr. at a Philadelphia concert on June 27, 1981 playing “Mister Magic.”

Personnel:

Grover Washington Jr, tenor sax
Eric Gale, guitar
Richard Tee, electric piano
Paul Griffin, synthesizer
Anthony Jackson, electric bass
Steve Gadd, drums
Ralph MacDonald, percussion

-Scott Yanow

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