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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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GROVER WASHINGTON, Jr.

Strawberry Moon /
Then and Now /
Time out of Mind

BGO Records BGOCD 1019

 

 

Strawberry Moon
1. Strawberry Moon
2. The Look of Love
3. Shivaree Ride
4. Caught a Touch of Your Love
5. Maddie's Blues
6. I Will Be Here For You
7. Monte Carlo Nights
8. Keep in Touch
9. Summer Nights
 
Grover Washington, Jr. - Soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, Fairlight synthesizer, Fender Rhodes
Marcus Miller - All instruments except saxes on track 9
B. B. King - Vocals, guitar
Spencer Harrison - Vocals, background vocals
Jean Carne - Vocals
Michael J. Powell, Richard Lee Steacker - Guitar
James Lloyd - Fairlight, Dx-7, Fender Rhodes, piano
Joey DeFrancesco - Piano, Fender Rhodes
James "Sid" Simmons - Fairlight
Gerald Veasley - Bass
Tyrone Brown - Banchetti electric bass
Darryl Washington - Drums, timbales
Jim Salomone - Linn drums, percussion, programming, drum programming Leonard "Dr" Gibbs - Congas, percussion
Ellen Cohen - Wind chimes, bell tree
Elizabeth Hague - Backing vocals
 
Then and Now
1. Blues for D. P.
2. Just Enough
3. French Connections
4. Something Borrowed, Something Blue
5. Lullaby for Shana Bly
6. Stolen Moments
7. In a Sentimental Mood
8. Stella by Starlight
 
Grover Washington, Jr. -Alto sax, tenor sax, soprano sax
Igor Butman - Tenor sax
Richard Lee Steacker - Electric guitar, acoustic guitar
Tommy Flanagan, Herbie Hancock, James "Sid" Simmons - Piano
Ron Carter - Bass
Gerald Veasley - Electric bass
Martin "Smitty" Smith, Grady Tate, Darryl Washington - Drums
Miguel Fuentes - Percussion
 
Time out of Mind
1. Jamaica
2. Gramercy Park
3. Sacred Kind of Love
4. Brand New Age
5. Fly Away
6. Don't Take Your Love from Me
7. Time out of Mind
8. Split Second (Act II, the Bar Scene)
9. Nice-N-Easy
10. Unspoken Love
11. Protect the Dream
 
Grover Washington, Jr. - Alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, soprano sax
Ronnie Foster - All instruments except saxes (on track 1)
Bill Jolly - Electric piano, keyboards
Jim Salomone - Drums, percussion, sequencing, keyboards, synthesizer programming, EIII programming
Philip Woo - Synthesizers, keyboards
Donald Robinson - Keyboards
James "Sid" Simmons - Keyboards
Phyllis Hyman - Vocals
Randy Bowland, Richard Lee Steaker - Guitars
Gerald Veasley - Bass
Darryl Washington - Drums
Daryl Burgee - Percussion
Miguel Fuentes - Congas, percussion
Leonard "Doc" Gibbs - Congas
Spencer Harrison, Lawrence Newton, Tracey Alston, Paula Holloway - Backing vocals

Here we have three LPs from 1987-89 packaged together on a double CD. You might compare them to a rose between two thorns. They feature the multiple horns of Grover Washington Jr., who has been described as a pioneer of smooth jazz. Certainly much of the first and third LPs could be put into that category, although the second (Then and Now) is closer to straightforward jazz.

Grover was a very versatile musician, adept on virtually all members of the saxophone family. He was especially notable for being able to produce a warm, smooth sound from the unforgiving soprano sax which, in the hands of many other musicians, tended to produce squeaks and shrieks. Unfortunately, Washington often hid his talents in the middle of accompaniments heavy with percussion and synthesizers. That is the case for much of the Strawberry Moon album, as in Summer Nights. And the tunes are often unimaginative - for example, in the title-track and Shivaree Ride. Grover also plays second fiddle to vocalists on The Look of Love, Keep in Touch and Monte Carlo Nights. This is not to say that such singers as Jean Carne are poor: it's just that they occupy much of the music when Grover Washington should take centre stage. After all, it is his album. One welcome vocalist is B. B. King, who lights up Caught a Touch of Your Love with his voice and guitar.

Here and Now makes a change because it uses a small jazz combo which includes such stars as Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Marvin "Smitty" Smith. Grover plays pieces by the likes of Tommy Flanagan and Oliver Nelson. Hancock, Carter and Washington shine brilliantly in Blues for D. P., and Ron Carter's strong bass comes through clearly in Hancock's Just Enough. For In a Sentimental Mood, Grover is accompanied simply by the sensitive piano of Tommy Flanagan, allowing Grover to express the most lyrical feelings on alto sax. Together they create a magical extended coda. In Stella by Starlight, Washington duets on soprano with tenorist Igor Butman, and they play games with one another at the end of Stolen Moments.

The album Time out of Mind returns us to the funky soul of the first album, with unbearably ponderous bass taking over right at the start of Jamaica. Gramercy Park is more acceptable jazz-funk but too many tracks on this album are dominated by cumbersome bass lines and synthesized riffs. It's all right for those who like this sort of thing as dance music, but it doesn't challenge the mind a great deal.

So, one good LP sandwiched between two forgettable ones. Fans of Grover Washington Jr. will welcome this reissue of three of his albums at a generous price, but jazz fans may feel short-changed.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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