Lost Gem: Grover Washington "Mister Magic" live duet pulled from vaults

(March 29, 2021) “Mister Magic” is one of the most recognizable jazz fusion songs from the era when jazz fusion got regular airplay on R&B radio. As a matter of fact, Grover Washington, Jr., the man who gave us “Mister Magic,” could easily have his own wing in any jazz fusion/contemporary jazz library. His music is definitely part of the soundtrack, and Grover inspired a generation of tenor players.

Benny Barksdale, Jr. was one of the tenor players influenced by Washington’s ax work. Barksdale had been making a name for himself for many years in the DMV, so he was a highly sought-after musician who had performed with a variety of artists, including The Dells, during a time when the legendary Chicago quintet enjoyed renewed popularity after having a song on “The Five Heartbeats” soundtrack.

(March 29, 2021) “Mister Magic” is one of the most recognizable jazz fusion songs from the era when jazz fusion got regular airplay on R&B radio. As a matter of fact, Grover Washington, Jr., the man who gave us “Mister Magic,” could easily have his own wing in any jazz fusion/contemporary jazz library. His music is definitely part of the soundtrack, and Grover inspired a generation of tenor players.

Benny Barksdale, Jr. was one of the tenor players influenced by Washington’s ax work. Barksdale had been making a name for himself for many years in the DMV, so he was a highly sought-after musician who had performed with a variety of artists, including The Dells, during a time when the legendary Chicago quintet enjoyed renewed popularity after having a song on “The Five Heartbeats” soundtrack.

In the fall of 1992, Barksdale happened to catch an interview Washington gave on an East Coast radio station to promote concerts he had planned in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Barksdale reached out to Washington after hearing the interview, and the saxophone legend responded. The two met, hit it off and that connection resulted in Washington inviting Barksdale to his concert in Red Bank, N,J and inviting Barksdale on stage to play the solo on “Mister Magic.”

It’s a night that Barksdale never forgot. It’s not every day that a musician gets to sit in with his idol and play one of the best-known solos in jazz music. Barksdale rewarded Washington’s graciousness with a feat of creative fancy that is a wonder to hear. Now, we get to hear that performance, which is featured in the soon to be released single “Mister Magic – Live at the Count Basie Theater.” The single drops on April 2, but you can check it out here.

By Howard Dukes

Grover Washington Jr. and Benny Barkdsdale Jr
“Mister Magic – Live at the Count Basie Theater”

 
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