Sun. Oct. 17, 2021

Grover Washington, Jr. – Mister Magic (Kudu)

Classics: Grover Washington, Jr. – Mister Magic (Kudu)

‘Mister Magic’ proudly carries its title, standing as the title cut/main cut from Grover Washington, Jr.‘s 1975 album of the likes. From the first notes, here again, you can tell… We’re in front of a Jazz/Funk manifesto. Mister Magic could be Washington, Jr. himself of course, but not only as a matter of fact. With almost all the protagonists fully entitled to be this Mister Magic at the end. From Harvey Mason on drums. To Gary King, responsible for a one of a kind rumblin’ bassline. Unless this being Bob James, in charge of the arrangements. And I’m not talkin’ about the contribution of Eric Gale on guitar!

Now, a quick listen to the (3 minutes something) 7 inch version just tells us how it wasn’t adapted to such a track. As far from its 9 minutes + album version. And, by that, leavin’ an impression of frustration. Although it’s clear on the other hand that a 12 inch might simply have killed the interest of this album which is more of a 4 track EP at the end. This meaning you gotta get the album version. Unless being lucky to get your hands on the Dutch 12″ pressing which parent label CTI Records has put out over there 2 years later. Or the one – although titled ‘Mr Magic’ – which Kudu ended up releasing in the U.K. back in 1980…

What’s the value of your vinyl record?

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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