The Public Records 11/23/18
Happy Thanksgiving all! It was a much needed rest and foddered day yesterday for all of us down here in The Public Records. I can all safe that we are all feeling fat and happy (and rip roarin’ ready to go). Being that it is still November, we’ll continue on our jazz kick.
As we have mentioned before, our jazz shelf encompasses the chronology of the genre; however, for this month, we’ve decided to mainly focus on the mid-20th century masters of the American movement. For this last installment, we see no need to change horses in midstream. With that being said, our last album of the week of November, 2018 is Grover Washington, Jr.’s ‘Winelight’ (Elektra, 1980).
The album won a Grammy in 1982 for Best Jazz Fusion Performance and the track ‘Just The Two Of Us’ featuring Mr. Bill Withers himself on vocals also received a Grammy. ‘Wine Light’ also featured genre giants such as Marcus Miller (bass), Ralph MacDonald (percussion), and Eric Gale (guitar). It reached number 1 on U.S. Billboard Top Jazz Albums, 2 on Soul, and 5 on Pop. ‘Winelight’ was Washington’s eleventh studio album.
Grover Washington, Jr. himself was another mid century legend. He in Buffalo, New York in 1943. His mother was involved in church music and his father was a saxophonist as well as old gramophone jazz collector. (Young parents! Pay attention to this pattern: Children exposed to music at an early age grow up to be phonky.) Grover received his first saxophone from his father at age 8 and shortly thereafter began sneaking into clubs around Buffalo to hear the local acts.
He was drafted into the army and there he met drummer Billy Cobham. They became fast friends and Cobham, who was from New York City proper and well known in the jazz scene took Grover with him upon their discharge.
After sometime gigging around the city, he made some inroads in Philadelphia and was asked to perform on Leon Spencer’s first two albums for Prestige along with other big names like Idris Muhammad and Melvin Sparks. Fate also smiled upon him due to a scheduling mix up; saxophonist Hank Crawford (see Tico Rico entry in our archives) had time constraints and was unable to make a recording for Creed Taylor’s Kudu Records and Washington was asked to sit in.
After this session, he was asked to due a solo album. This marked the beginning of a long and prolific career. With his two 1974/75 albums, Mister Magic and Feels So Good (Kudu), netting massive commercial success. This led to his smoothness of the 80s and the huge success of Winelight. Washington by this time had grown to love his adopted home of Philadelphia and especially the 76ers; the second track on the album ‘Let It Flow’ was dedicated to Dr. J.
Washington also helped discover Kenny G., Boney James, Pamela Williams and many others. Sadly, a few days after his 56th birthday, while sitting in the green room of CBS’s The Saturday Early Show, Grover Washington Jr. suffered a massive heart attack and passed away on December, 17th 1999.
However, we have the ability to celebrate this wonderful man’s wonderful contributions to a wonderful genre and the peak of career by coming down and enjoying ‘Winelight’ with a chilled Pacific Oasis Riesling. The weather may be cold, but our tunes are more than hot.