Sun. Dec. 15, 2019

Grover Washington, Jr. – Just The Two Of Us (Elektra)

Classics: Grover Washington, Jr. – Just The Two Of Us (Elektra)

“Just the two of us, building castles in the sky. Just the two of us, You and I”. I guess this is pretty much what could have said both saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. and singer Bill Withers about this song. This after the success it had back following its release back in 1981. Eventually getting its protagonists to earn a Grammy Award for “Best R&B Song”. Meanwhile opening the path for what would soon after be known as Smooth Jazz.

In an uplifting Quiet Storm mood, ‘Just The Two Of Us’ is undoutedly the key track from his 1980 ‘Winelight’ album. This with regular collaborators Eric Gale on guitar and Ralph Mc Donald on congas and percussion. In addition to Marcus Miller on bass.

“Just the two of us, we can make it if we try…” And God knows how they made it at the end, turnin’ it into an outstanding Love song at the end…

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Overview
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.

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