Without a doubt, Grover Washington, Jr. is best described as one of the most dominant and influential figures in contemporary jazz. For more than 30 years, Grover crossed the lines of pop, R&B and jazz to become one of music’s most prolific artists of his time. In fact, he is widely respected for bridging the gap between jazz and other styles of music and by most standards, he is a legend. Grover's untimely passing in 1999 left a vacuum that has yet been filled by any of today’s stable of jazz musicians. His influence on such artists as Kenny G, Richard Elliot, Kirk Whalum, Eric Marienthal, Bryan Savage, George Howard, Pieces of a Dream, Pamela Williams, Eric Darius, Euge Groove, Shilts and any number of other notable individuals has been extraordinary. Since his passing, Grover Washington’s legacy has been immortalized with tribute albums and performances, to include a "Groovin’ For Grover" concert and an album entitled "To Grover, With Love," a release that has been touted as one of the finest tribute recordings to date.
Originally released in 2001 by arranger/musician Jason Miles, "To Grover, With Love" is more than a mere introspective tribute album. The release is a celebration of Grover Washington’s phenomenal contributions to jazz and the immense influence he had on countless musicians. To help make this project happen, Miles recruited more than 50 artists and sound personnel to highlight 14 tracks of Grover Washington, Jr. magic. More importantly, great steps were taken to insure that quality and presence of Grover’s music remained intact, which ultimately became a labor of love by all who participated in the recording. The list of notable artists who sang, played and participated on "To Grover, With Love" definitely reads like a star-studded "Who’s Who in Contemporary Jazz." They include the talents of Chaka Khan, Peter White, Regina Belle, Jay Beckenstein, Michael Brecker, George Duke, Gerald Albright, Joe Sample, Randy Brecker, Tom Schuman, Paul Taylor, Ronnie Laws, Chuck Loeb and a variety of other musicians and vocalists, all of whom have been influenced by Grover in some shape, form or fashion. Recently Jason Miles re-released "To Grover, With Love" on the ARTizen Record Label and this time out, the expectations are that the album will receive a higher level of visibility.
In Jason Miles’ mind, "To Grover, With Love" is more than a collection of cover songs. The CD is a passionate embrace of everything mystical and magical about Grover Washington Jr.’s approach to his craft. Everything about contemporary jazz’s most devout saxophonist was full of qualitatively good music. He had a voice that was easily recognizable and captured the essence of the intuitive creative spirit that comes from within. Jason does an immaculate job of perfecting a renewed sense of presence that made Grover Washington, Jr. so very special and unique. Tunes such as "Winelight," "East River Drive," "Mr. Magic," "Just The Two of Us," "Summer Chill" and "Inner City Blues" are presented with sensitivity and creative imagery. The other eight tracks are just as dynamic and are filled with intensity and illumination. In every sense, Jason Miles has accomplished something very few arrangers can master a sincere interpretive approach to music that is timeless.
Grover Washington, Jr. is definitely a musical legend and is the driving force behind many of the saxophonists of today. Although smooth jazz often collided with Grover’s approach to music, Grover never tried to compete with other artists. His style of contemporary jazz was and continues to be one of a kind. Thanks to Jason Miles, whose penchant for interpretive releases has garnered him much success, "To Grover, With Love" is a reminder of what quality sounding jazz used to be about. Although smooth jazz has picked up where Grover Washington, Jr. left off, remnants of his influence permeate the landscape. In recent years, Jason Miles has been at the forefront of bringing the creative flow of notable jazz and musicians to the surface. Other outstanding albums has included the release of "A Love Affair: The Music of Ivan Lins," "Celebrating the Music of Weather Report," "Miles To Miles - The Spirit of Miles Davis" and most recently, "What’s Going On? - Songs of Marvin Gaye." To promote the latter, Jason and saxophonist Candy Dulfer will be on tour beginning in the summer of 2006. Hopefully, the jazz world has not seen the last of Jason Miles and his concerted tributes to outstanding artists and varying styles of music. "To Grover, With Love" is one of the best and is a welcome addition to any jazz collection, as are his other releases.