Grover Washington, Jr., one of the most influential and well-regarded saxophonists of all time, left us too soon. He passed away in 1999 at age 56. The Philadelphia Jazz Project, 88.5 WXPN, and WRTI 90.1 FM are teaming up with NPR’s nationally syndicated radio show, “Jazz Night in America” and other local partners to present this historic reunion concert — a tribute to Grover — with original members of Grover’s band at the Temple University Performing Arts Center (TPAC) on Tuesday, July 18th at 7:30 pm.
*The concert will be recorded for broadcast on public radio stations throughout the United States in the fall.*
Headliners Gerald Albright and Najee, who regarded Grover as a mentor, will perform alongside music director and keyboardist Bill Jolly, keyboardist Donald Robinson, guitarist Richard Lee Steacker , bassist Gerald Veasley , drummer Steve Wolf , and percussionist Pablo Batista. The band will be joined by special guest vocalist Jean Carn.
This concert marks the first time in almost 20 years that these original members of Grover’s band are sharing the stage to remember and celebrate “a great musician, mentor, and human being” says Bill Jolly. “We all loved Grover.”
Grover’s mastery in jazz, soul-jazz, R&B, jazz-fusion, jazz-funk, and jazz-pop pushed music beyond boundaries, and an entire genre of music, smooth jazz, owes its origin to his effortless, quicksilver playing. But there was more. As Robert Palmer wrote in Rolling Stone , “his sound is attractively personal; he combines liquid grace with an understated residue of R&B grit.”
Although he was born in Buffalo, Grover moved to Philadelphia in 1967 after his Army service. He has been identified with the City of Brotherly Love as a native son ever since. An avid 76ers fan, he wrote “Let It Flow” for Julius Erving (Dr. J.), and played the National Anthem at many Sixers games. He also received his doctorate in composition from Temple University.
Grover worked with Charles Earland, Gerry Mulligan, Bob James, Don Sebesky, Joe Jones, Leon Spencer, Johnny Hammond, Dexter Gordon, Urbie Green, Hank Crawford, Kenny Burrell, Randy Weston, Billy Cobham, Jr., Bobby McFerrin, B. B. King, Eddie Henderson, Patti LaBelle, Kathleen Battle, Nancy Wilson, and many others.
Most famously, in 1980, on his Grammy Award-winning album “Winelight,” he teamed up with Bill Withers on the hit single “Just the Two of Us.” Other hits include “Mister Magic,” “Reed Seed,” “Black Frost,” “Winelight,” “Inner City Blues,” “The Best is Yet to Come,” and “A Sacred Kind of Love.”
A versatile musician, Grover played soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones, as well as clarinet, electric bass, and piano. Along with his Grammy, he had one platinum and six gold albums.
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