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Jazz Moods: Cool

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Album Review

The late saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. had three distinct periods during his musical career. The first was as a sideman with Charles Earland in his great cooking soul-jazz band of the mid-'60s; the second — his best musically — was his association with producer and label boss and producer Creed Taylor at Motown and then at Kudu where he recorded his greatest records, including Soul Box, Feels So Good, Mister Magic, Reed Seed, and A Secret Place; and the last of these was his most commercially viable period recording for Elektra and finally Columbia. This compilation concerns itself with his Columbia tenure and sticks close to the bone of Washington's "cool" period — which is nonsense because he never played anything remotely resembling "cool" jazz, either historically or musicologically, despite recording Dave Brubeck's "Take Five," which appears here. These tunes were plucked from the Sony vault for inclusion on this budget compilation and serve no purpose other than to highlight that the man could play "mellow" like no body's business. As musically lightweight as this material is, there is something clearly of the man's gifts on offer: his facility for melodic improvisation even during the smooth jazz era. While melody was king during the '80s and '90s in this subgenre of jazz, Washington did it better and more intuitively than anyone else and never took a dive, even if the arranged sounds around him were not up to his abilities.


Born: 12 December 1943 in Buffalo, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

One of the most popular saxophonists of all time, Grover Washington, Jr. was long the pacesetter in his field. His roots were in R&B and soul-jazz organ combos, but he also fared very well on the infrequent occasions when he played straight-ahead jazz. A highly influential player, Washington pushed himself with the spontaneity and risk-taking of a masterful jazz musician. Grover Washington, Jr.'s, father also played saxophone and was his first influence. The younger son started playing music when...
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