It’s hard to overestimate the influence Grover Washington Jr. had on both mainstream and contemporary jazz in his heyday. Like only a handful of artists in the realm, Washington managed to bring the separate ideals of jazz into a single mode of expression, and he did so with great success, not to mention influence an entire generation of serious jazz players.
In the loving hands of Jason Miles, the magical vibe of Grover Washington Jr. comes vibrantly back to life on Grover with Love, Live in Japan, Miles reintroduces the sublime sounds of his hero.
Featuring special guest Ralph MacDonald on percussion and Ryan Shaw’s vocal cameo on the epic smash “Just the Two of Us,” Grover with Love is the quintessential live tribute to the masterful sax player, who left this world too soon at age 56. Joining keyboard wiz Miles is a gifted cadre of NYC jazz talent, including Nick Moroch (guitar), Gerald Veasley (bass) and Buddy Williams (drums). Andy Snitzer and Eric Darius share sax duties. Snitzer and Darius are up to the task of banging out dueling solos, especially on “Mr. Magic,” one of Washington’s standards and a highlight of this recording.
Adopted from the posthumously released Grover Live from 2010, (a recording of one of Grover’s 1997 performances), this work strives to be everything that Grover was as a performer: funky, sexy, smooth, passionate, beautiful, and consummately performed. Miles has done an excellent job being respectful to Washington’s musical legacy, but at the same time adding the sort of vibrant flourishes that today’s jazz audiences are seeking. As the front man of this ensemble, he understands that any tribute to Washington is motorized by the work of the saxophones, and to his credit, he steps back as often as he needs to in order to let Darius and Snitzer step up into the spotlight. Still, Miles gets his chances as well, especially on Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues,” where he bides his time patiently before taking off.
Those interested in a deeper exploration of Miles’ profound affection for Grover Washington Jr. can also check out Miles’ two studio tributes, To Grover With Love and 2 Grover with Love.