The death of Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., in late 1999, shocked the music world. Washington had just finished taping a segment for network television in New York, when he was stricken by a heart attack. He was 56 years old. Grover Washington, Jr., made his mark in jazz, but his music touched fans everywhere. Washington's closest fans were his colleagues who recently teamed up to record a tribute album in his honor.
Grover was indeed loved the world over. Beginning with his first band the Four Clefs in his native Buffalo, New York, and including his days in Philadelphia with rhythm and blues organist Charles Earland, Grover Washington, Jr., kept getting better and better. From his acclaimed solo debut in 1971, to his last album of classical arias recorded just six months before he collapsed in his dressing room at CBS-TV studios on December 17, 1999, Grover truly was "Mr. Magic."
Flutist Herbie Mann plays Grover Washington, Jr.'s signature song, "Mr. Magic," the title track from Grover's 1974 album. Mann is one of more than 20 of today's top contemporary jazz artists featured on the new tribute collection "To Grover, With Love" where alto saxophonist Gerald Albright pays tribute to "Mr. Magic" with the title song from Grover's 1981 Grammy-winning album "Winelight."
Saxophone and flute aren't the only lead instruments represented on the album. Rippingtons' guitarist Russ Freeman contributes a version of the Grover Washington, Junior tune "East River Drive."
Grover's "East River Drive," inspired by a scenic road in Philadelphia, appeared on his 1981 album "Come Morning." This is Russ Freeman's remake from "To Grover, With Love." Freeman performed with Grover many times over the years, and calls him "a gracious elder statesman, a gentleman, a friend and an eloquent voice that was too soon silenced."
Also appearing on "To Grover, With Love" are saxophonists Dave Koz, Jay Beckenstein, Ronnie Laws, Michael Brecker, Everette Harp and Richard Elliot; guitarists Chuck Loeb and Mark Whitfield; and singers Regina Belle and Chaka Khan. Proceeds from the album will benefit the Grover Washington, Jr. foundation, Protect The Dream, which sponsors musical education programs for young people.
You can visit their website at www.protectthedream.com.