Lost but not least! Grover Washington, Jr. – It Feels So Good (Kudu)
‘It Feels So Good’… Is pretty much what we may overall think when givin’ a listen to Grover Washington, Jr.‘s music as a matter of fact.
The Buffalo, NY native whom we managed to have a chat with back in 1989, set the path for a whole generation of musicians who would compete for supremacy in the Smooth Jazz scene. This with the highly memorable ‘Just The Two Of Us’ along with Bill Withers back in 1981.
He, along with Bob James (piano, synths), Louis Johnson (bass), Steve Gadd (drums), Eric Gale (guitar) and producer Ralph McDonald (percussion), played a quintessential role in the establishment of Jazz/Funk in the mid-70’s. Reachin’ his absolute peak on Creed Taylor‘s Kudu Records label with his albums – ‘Mister. Magic’ and ‘Feels So Good’ – both released in 1975.
One of the highlights of the latter, along with ‘Knucklehead’ and ‘Hydra’, ‘It Feels So Good’ delivers an undeniable cinematic feel. And what to think of its fascinating progression? Yes folks, it feels so good, doesn’t it?!?
A native of Buffalo, NY, Grover Washington, Jr. grew up in a home where music was everywhere. With his mom being a church chrositer and his dad himself a sax player and an avid collector of Jazz gramophone records.
Jr. who received his first saxophone from his dad when he was 8. Four years later, he started playing professionally. Then he launched his own group by the age of 14. Luckily enough, he came to meet famous drummer Billy Cobham while doin’ his military obligations. With the latter introducing him to many musicians in the Big Apple…
Grover Washington, Jr. made his recording debut on the Charles Earland‘s 1971 ‘Living Black’ album on Prestige. Meanwhile contributing to Leon Spencer‘s ‘Louisiana Slim’ and ‘Sneak Preview!’ for the same label. And also doin’ the same on Johnny Hammond‘s ‘What’s Going On’ and ‘Breakout’ album by the same period. This being how he caught up the attention of CTI Records label head Creed Taylor. Then eventually took the place of Hank Crawford who happened to be unable to make the recording date of the ‘Inner City Blues’ album. Its success enabling him to finally put an end to his other career as record salesman.
Jr.‘s fourth album – ‘Mister Magic’ – brought him some major success and more precisely its track of the likes. And so did its follow-up – ‘Feels So Good’ – back in 1975. With thanks to its title track and the seminal ‘Knucklehead’. He made a quick detour by Motown, releasing three extra albums between 1978 and 1980. Then went back to the upper heights that same year with ‘Winelight’, his debut-album for Elektra. As led by the memorable ‘Just The Two Of Us’ featuring Bill Withers on vocals. Its follow-up – the 1981 ‘Come Morning’ album – featuring the outstanding ‘East River Drive’. Meanwhile confirming Washington‘s position as the one who set up Smooth Jazz on the map. Thus opening the path for luminaries such as Kenny G, Walter Beasley and George Howard to name a few.
As a sideman, Jr. has worked with an impressive list of luminaries. From Jean Carne (‘Keep In Touch’ and ‘The Look Of Love’). To Phyllis Hyman (‘Sacred Kind Of Love’) and King Britt (‘For Love’). Not to mention Five Star (‘Let Me Be The One’) among others. Meanwhile, he also happened to produce the three first albums by the likes of Pieces Of A Dream. Thus givin’ birth to gems such as ‘Body Magic’ and ‘Mt. Airy Groove’.
Sadly enough, five days after his 56th birthday, on Dec. 17, 1999, Washington collapsed while waiting in the green room after performing four songs for The Saturday Early Show, at CBS Studios in NYC. He was taken to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at about 07:30pm after suffering a massive heart attack.