Jason Miles

To Grover, With Love

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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran

Since the passing of sax great Grover Washington, Jr. in late 1999, the smooth jazz world has paid what seems like nonstop tribute to him, with genre stars constantly invoking his influence and several years of an all-star Groovin' for Grover tour. Setting the standard for tributes on the studio end was veteran keyboardist Jason Miles' heartfelt 2000 disc To Grover, With Love, which featured most of the legend's "greatest hits" played passionately by all-star saxmen including the late Michael Brecker, Gerald Albright, Jay Beckenstein, Dave Koz, Richard Elliot, Everette Harp, and Steve Cole, in addition to Herbie Mann and Russ Freeman. Aside from the solid, soulful grooving, passionate playing, and dynamic production, this long awaited sequel is most notable for the off-the-beaten-path turf it covers. The casual Grover fan may only know the two most famous tracks here, a warm-hearted and sensual vocal version of "Mr. Magic" by Maysa and the moody, old-school keyboard-driven take on "Strawberry Moon." But that, along with the slightly scaled down guest list (Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Najee, Andy Snitzer, Kim Waters, Jay Beckenstein, Dean Brown, Dominick Farinacci) is the reason that this is in some ways an even more effective homage. Miles has long been a brilliant arranger, but the choice of slightly more obscure material ("Summer Nights," "Bright Moments," "Reed Seed," "The Saddest Thing") forces the listener to contemplate Grover's deeper heart and artistry that the star studded greatest-hits angle of the first collection could only scratch the surface of. While each of the featured saxmen gets a crack or two at carrying on Grover's sax vibe, Miles makes a smart move in rendering tracks like "Moonstreams" sax free; on that song, Farinacci's dreamy trumpet carries the cool until Miles chimes in with a rich improvisational Rhodes solo. Considering Grover's decades-deep catalog, a second sequel shouldn't be out of the question; all fans new and old who dig this sequel should be requesting that it doesn't take eight years to "Let It Flow" again.

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