When saxophonist and composer Grover Washington Jr. (1943-1999) arrived at Columbia in 1986, he was already a fully formed artist. He had released a string of strong albums and had even landed a regular smash-hit with "Just the Two Us," his collaboration with singer Bill Withers. In other words, Washington had nothing to prove and could just concentrate on playing great music. And so he did. The proof is in a five-disc set from SoulMusic Records, Sacred Kind of Love: The Columbia Recordings, which collects the majority of his Columbia albums: Strawberry Moon (1987), Then and Now (1988), Time Out of Mind (1989), Next Exit (1992), All My Tomorrows (1994) and Soulful Strut (1996). Missing are his soundtrack to The Cosby Show: A House Full of Love: Music from The Cosby Show (1986), his Christmas music: Breath of Heaven: A Holiday Collection (1997) and his classical album Aria (2000).
The three missing albums; a soundtrack, a Christmas collection and classical album, say something about Washington's versatility. The most impressive thing about the present slimmed-down Columbia collection is also how eclectic it is. Washington is perhaps best known as a pioneering smooth jazz artist with a notable R&B influence, but in this collection, he covers an impressive amount of styles while keeping a personal, soulful voice. To top it off, he plays alto, soprano and tenor saxophones with equal skill. All the while, he stays true to his musical integrity and vision. As he points out in the excellent notes by Charles Waring: "When you put out an album it's there for life. I don't want to go back to an album and say 'oh man, I did that.' First and foremost, the music has to be truthful to me."
The music comes across as sincere and no matter if Washington plays modern acoustic mainstream, electric, funky and smooth or flirts with vocal pop. He covers all styles with a personal and adventurous approach. His versatility is sometimes overlooked, but it shines through in a box set like this. When he plays jazz standards, he might add a big band orchestral flourish as he does in his reading of "When I Fall in Love," or he can do a pared-down-to-the essentials approach on "Nature Boy," where his gift for playing a melody comes to the fore. He can also do a playful electro take on Dave Brubeck's "Take Five."
When it comes to vocalists there are elements of jazz, R&B and even a brief rap and he enlists singers as varied as Jean Carne, Phyllis Hyman, B.B. King and Freddy Cole. There is also a bit of Latin rhythm and bossa nova and Washington gets away with it all and still creates coherent albums with a distinctive sound. His sidemen include pianists Herbie Hancock and Hank Jones, bassist George Mraz and drummer Billy Hart.
Sacred Kind of Love: The Columbia Recordings is a good place to start to grasp the quality and diversity of Grover Washington's music. A bonus: the box comes with thorough notes and bonus tracks. To quote one of the titles in the set, "Check Out Grover."
Track Listing: CD1: Strawberry Moon; The Look Of Love (Feat. Jean Carne); Shivaree Ride; Caught A Touch Of Your Love; Maddie’s
Blues; I Will Be Here For You; Monte Carlo Nights; Keep In Touch (Feat. Jean Carne); Summer Nights; Blues For D.P.;
Just Enough; French Connections; Something Borrowed, Something Blue; Lullaby For Shana Bly. CD2: Stolen
Moments; In A Sentimental Mood; Stella By Starlight; Time Out Of Mind; Jamaica; Gramercy Park; Sacred Kind Of
Love (Feat. Phyllis Hyman); Brand New Age; Fly Away; Don’t Take Your Love From Me; Time Out Of Mind; Split Second
(Act Ii, The Bar Scene); Nice-N-Easy; Unspoken Love; Protect The Dream. CD3: 1. Take Five (Another Five); Your Love;
Only For You (Siempre Para D’sera); Greene Street; Next Exit; I Miss Home; Love Like This (Feat. Lalah Hathaway);
Summer Chill; Till You Return To Me; Get On Up; Check Out Grover; É Preciso Perdoar; When I Fall In Love; I’m Glad
There Is You; Happenstance. CD4: All My Tomorrows; Nature Boy; Please Send Me Someone To Love; Overjoyed;
Flamingo; For Heaven’s Sake; Estate (“Ess-Tah-Tay”) (In Summer); Every Day A Little Death (From A Little Night
Music). CD5: Soulful Strut; Can You Stop The Rain; Play That Groove For Me; Bordertown; I Can Count The Times;
Village Groove; Headman’s Haunt; Poacher Man; Mystical Force; Uptown; Heat Index; The Night Fantastic.
Personnel: Grover Washington: alto, tenor & soprano saxophone, synthesizer, electric piano; Jim Salamone: drum machine,
electronic drums, percussion, keyboards; Ellen Cohen: wind chimes, bell tree; Tyrone Brown: electric bass; Jean Carne:
vocal; B.B. King: guitar, vocal; James Lloyd: grand piano, synthesizer; James “Sid” Simmons: synthesizer, piano;
Michael J. Powell: guitar; Elizabeth Hogue: vocal; Spencer Harrison: vocal; Joey DeFrancesco: grand piano, electric
piano; Marcus Miller: instruments; Darryl Washington: drums, timbalas; Gerald Veasley: bass; Leonard “Dr.” Gibbs:
congas, percussion; Richard Lee Steacker: guitar; Jason Miles: programming, synthesizer; Ron Carter: bass; Grady Tate:
drums; Martin “Smitty” Smith: drums; Herbie Hancock: piano; Miguel Fuentes: percussion, congas; Igor Butman: tenor
saxophone; Tommy Flanagan: piano; Philip Woo: keyboards, synthesizer; Randy Bowland: guitar; Daryl Burgee:
percussion; Ronnie Foster: multi-instruments; Paula Holloway: vocal; Phyllis Hyman: vocal; Bill Jolly: keyboards,
piano (electric), synthesizer; Donald Robinson: keyboards, producer; Ruben Rodriguez: bass; Ramsey Lewis: piano;
James McBride: piano; Doc Powell: guitar; Nancy Wilson: vocals; Levy Stubbs: vocals; George Mraz: bass; Billy Hart:
drums; Romero Lubambo: guitar; Steve Berrios: percussion; Hank Jones: piano; Eddie Henderson: trumpet, flugelhorn;
Robin Eubanks: trombone; Lewis Nash: drums; Freddy Cole: vocal; Bobby Watson: alto saxophone; Jimmy Cozier:
baritone saxophone; Earl Gardner: flugelhorn; Bobby LeVell: tenor saxophone; Cyro Baptista – percussion; Steve
Bargonetti: guitar, keyboards, synthesizer; Pablo Batista: congas, percussion; Joe Bonadio: congas; Randy Bowland:
guitar; Rick DePofi: tenor saxophone; Charlie Ernst: synthesizer; Mac Gallohon: trumpet; Norberto Goldberg:
percussion; Andy Gravish: trumpet; Gary Haase: bass, drums, producer; Aaron Heick: flute, saxophone; Dann Huff:
guitar; Dale Kelps: clarinet, flute, saxophone; Bakithi Kumalo: vocals; Dan Shea: bass, drums, keyboards, producer.
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