Grover Washington Jr. — Grover Live

May 5, 2010

 Oh, how sweet it is and has always been with Grover Washington Jr. releases.  This latest release, Grover Live, is a generous 18-track live recording made back in June of 1997 at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Peerskill, NY.  The master of smooth jazz only made one other live recording, Live at the Bijou, 20 years prior to this one at Philadelphia’s Bijou Café; so, this one will surely be welcomed with open arms by all Grover fans (and what smooth jazzer isn’t a Grover fan???)
The recording is chock full of sweet and funky grooves alike, with the classic (well, weren’t they all classics, really?) “Winelight” setting it all off in regal fashion.  Followed by the mighty “Take Another Five” and enhanced by the legend’s happy, teasing, cajoling interaction with the fans, which will surely bring smiles and tears alike to many eyes and hearts.

Always one to place a serious yet fun mark on every composition with his style and ability to shape and mold melodies and vibes at will, this quality production captures the man at work and play in the same breath and demonstrates the complexity and the ease with which he presents each flair-filled piece.  Nothing that Grover ever touched could ever be approached by anyone hoping to even remotely capture the fabric and feel of the man’s music without an air of utter respect and meticulous attention to detail; that is, if they have any hope of making a relevant recording.

Joined here by the likes of bassist Gerald Veasley, Adam Holzman and Donald Robinson (the latter also serving as musical director) on keys and synths, Richard Lee on guitar, Steven Wolf on drums, and Pablo Batista on percussion,  Grover lets loose as only he could, with grace and charisma.

Too many of his classics are included here to mention all individually, but you can rest assured that there are no disappointing omissions here. In addition to the two mentioned above, there is, of course, “Soulful Strut,” “Uptown,” “Inner City Blues,” “East River Drive,” “Just the Two of Us,” and “Mr. Magic.” That alone is more than enough to grab this one, but there are many others to get you going and keep you there.

This one is—what would you expect?—classic and compelling Grover, live and unleashed.  As he jokingly states just after performing a remix of “Soulful Strut,” “I came here to ‘hurt’ you. I didn’t come to leave you like I found you. That wouldn’t be fair, now, would it?”  We wouldn’t have had it any other way, Grover! -  Ronald Jackson