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The Groove of Grover
Grover Washington Jr. was a monster sax man. He developed a mellow sound and fluid style like no one else early on. You had to listen to Grover's style for a long minute though before you reached the conclusion this was a master at his game. Grover could play straight-ahead with the best of them, but he loved the slick R&B sounds of the day and incorporated this genre in his music most often.
He was fluent on the soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone. In hearing him play you would think that a giant of a man was wailing out the fluid notes. While not a giant in size he was certainly a titan on the golden horn. Grover Washington discovered his sound in Philadelphia, and grooved his technique with the likes of Johnny Hammond Smith.
His big break came when in 1971 Hank Crawford couldn't make it to a recording date. It must have been fate for Grover. It was a recording gig with the brilliant Bob James, and the album was the mega-hit Inner City Blues. Many critics feel that this first recording was the best of his career, and it reflected a flow and intensity that he never quite seemed to duplicate. However, the talent of Grover Washington and Bob James combined to create an unforgettable sound on the commercial jazz market. From that point on Grover Washington never slowed down.
Many critics feel that his music during the latter years was on coast, but they could never accuse the sax man of failing to deliver something refreshing on every Album. Check out the collaboration of Grover and Bill Withers on the hit Just The Two of Us.
His passing created a gap in the world of pop jazz that may be hard to fill again. In many circles it's whispered that he was never given the respect due to a musician of his accomplishments. And in other venues it's shouted that he never reached the status of a true jazz musician. It's almost as if the critics that followed him for half a lifetime finally reveled in the silence of his masterful horn. Such is often the case in a world of men who pass judgment.
There will always be those silent fans and admirers that remember the man for his brevity of spirit, and the uncompromised melodies he brought to his profession. Grover played his heart out in the brief span of his lifetime.