How Grover Washington Jr. Defined And Transcended 'Smooth Jazz'

Nov 17, 2017
Originally published on November 17, 2017 5:37 pm

One way or another, you've heard Grover Washington Jr.'s saxophone. Perhaps on "Mister Magic" or another of his instrumental hits, like "Winelight." Or on "Just the Two of Us," the smash hit featuring Bill Withers. What Washington's sound represents is soul, plain and simple, though it's often been associated with another word: "smooth." A lot of musicians have some choice words to say about that, starting with Washington himself.

Jazz Night in America recently partnered with WRTI, in Grover Washington's adopted hometown of Philadelphia, to present a tribute concert at the Temple Performing Arts Center. In this episode of the radio show, we'll put you in that room with a wildly enthusiastic crowd, to hear a reunion of Grover Washington band members, like bassist Gerald Veasley and keyboardist Bill Jolly, as well as two saxophonic inheritors, Gerald Albright and Najee. We'll also hear from musicians like David Sanborn, a near-contemporary of Washington's, about the legacy and presumptions surrounding "smooth jazz," and the ways in which Washington both defined and transcended it.

PERFORMERS

Najee (tenor and soprano saxophone), Gerald Albright (alto saxophone), Bill Jolly (keyboards, vocals), Donald Robinson (keyboards), Richard Lee Steacker (guitar), Gerald Veasley (bass), Pablo Batista (percussion), Steven Wolf (drums), Carl Cox Jr. (tenor saxophone), Michael Jarosz (trumpet), Brent White (trombone), La' Trese Jones (vocals), Suzanne Burgess (vocals)

CREDITS

Recorded by Weston Sound; Location engineers: Joe Hannigan, Clark Conner; Audio produced, arranged and mixed by Bill Jolly; Presented by The Philadelphia Jazz Project, WXPN, Temple Performing Arts Center, PhillyCAM, WRTI

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