Saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. was a remarkable and prominent musician, arranger and producer whose style of music created the blueprint for the Smooth Jazz genre. His astonishing background in Jazz, Jazz-Funk and Jazz-Pop allowed him to showcase his graceful playing flair, that still echoes to this day.
Washington started out as a Saxophonist in the musical group the Four Clefs from 1960-63. His first immense musical break came as quite a coincidence. Commercially-minded record producer Creed Taylor had put together a set of Pop-Funk tunes for alto saxophonist Hank Crawford. The day of recording, Crawford was arrested. Taylor called in the lesser-known Washington as a substitute allowing him to play the alto parts. The album, Inner City Blues, was released in 1971 under Washington’s name. It became a hit–album, according to New York Times, and “sold hundreds of thousands of copies and did much to break down barriers between jazz and pop.”
Washington himself admitted, “My big break was blind luck.”
Washington earned his first Grammy Award in 1981, for “Best Jazz-Fusion Performance, Vocal or Instrumental”, for his album Winelight. The album was Smooth Jazz, mixed with R&B, with an easy listening feel. Washington’s adoration of basketball, specifically the Philadelphia 76ers, led him to dedicate the second track, “Let It Flow“, to Julius Erving (aka Dr. J). The highlight of the album was his collaboration with soul artist Bill Withers, “Just the Two of Us,” a huge radio hit during the Spring and Summer of 1981. In 1983, he was named winner of Outstanding Achievement in the Arts award at the Pitt Jazz Seminar, at the University of Pittsburgh.
Throughout his impressive musical career, Washington received one Platinum and six Gold albums.
In December 1999, just a few days’ shy of celebrating his 56th birthday; Washington passed from a heart attack. He left behind his inspirational muse and wife Christine, and two children Shana and Grover III.
Today, we remember and honor Grover Washington Jr, for his indelible impact on the world of music. C’mon, you know your parents (or grandparents) were bumping those jams growing up!!!
– Destiny DeJournett