Grover Washington, Jr.

Ultimate Collection

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Hip-O Select's Ultimate Collection of Grover Washington, Jr. tunes is pretty much that. It's true that it does leave out his great, side-long reading of Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man" and his version of "Mercy Mercy Me." That said, this is an amazing set that includes in its first three selections "Mister Magic," "Just the Two of Us," (a vocal tune with Bill Withers), and "Feel So Good," arguably the late saxophonist's greatest creative period before settling into commercial success and softer groove territory with Columbia. The Kudu/CTI years with Creed Taylor established Washington as one of the great soul-jazz and jazz-funk players. His abilities as an improviser on both tenor and soprano were virtually limitless, and his technique was, to understate the case, more than enviable. Add to this that Washington chose to be a melodic improviser from the get-go: check the Bob James-penned tune "Black Frost," which carries within it the heart of funky soul and uses melody around the tune's theme to such effect, the ensemble is challenged to try to deepen its theme or fade into the background. The enormous Bob James arrangement on the medley of "Ain't No Sunshine"/"Theme from Man and Boy (Better Days)" with a the swelling strings around him makes Washington use restraint rather than compete and uses his many subtle soul harmonies to compensate, bringing a very deep and nuanced reading to both songs. One can only hope that Washington's CTI/Kudu releases get a deluxe treatment one day and come back into print, particularly Soul Box and All the King's Horses, though Feels So Good and Mister Magic already are. As a collection, this one is very tough to beat.

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