Grover Washington Jr

Grover Washington Jr

    Artists have to make a choice when doing a live concert, and the more prolific the performer, the more difficult the choice. The choice revolves around what songs the artist should include in the set list, and which songs will not be performed live that night. An artist who releases a new album is probably embarking on the concert tour to promote the new record and realizes that he has to play tunes from the new record to entice fans to buy. However, many people attending the show want to hear numbers from previous albums. Some artists have been known to perform only the tracks from new releases. Others intersperse the new songs into a set that leans heavily toward giving the people what they want - which is a steady diet of the old songs. Others opt to balance the show by doing selections from a new record as well as a combination of full-length versions and medleys of old favorites.

    The late Grover Washington Jr. (it's hard to believe that Grover has been gone for more than 10 years) took the third option during a June 7, 1997 concert in Peekskill , NY . Grover Live, a recording of this concert, will be released on May 18.

    Audience members are likely to be somewhat disappointed by whatever choice the performer makes. I for one can say that I am not all that crazy about medleys because they leave me wanting more. This concert included medleys of great songs such as Washington's version of "Inner City Blues," and originals like "Just The Two Of Us," "Inside Moves" and "Black Frost." The listener only gets a hint of how 1970s and 80s fusion artists like Washington were able to shape and bend R&B and soul songs in order to bring out the tune's jazz sensibilities. This says nothing about the many great Washington tunes that the saxophonist had to excise from the set list in the interest of time.

    Still, I must admit, Washington did an admirable job in balancing the show in what is clearly an imperfect situation. The audience got full-length versions of Washington favorites such as "Winelight," "Let It All Flow (For Dr. J), and "Mr. Magic." Washington worked in numbers from his latest album Soulful Strut, which had been released in 1996. Grover Live showcases Washington 's melodic, soulful and creative playing as well as his engaging personality.

    In fact, one of Grover Live's pleasing aspects is hearing Washington 's soothing voice. The vocals on Washington's records often came from singers such as Patti LaBelle and Bill Withers, so hearing Washington engage in banter with his fans gives listeners an insight into his on stage persona. Grover Live will also remind fans of Washington and jazz-fusion why we miss a voice that was taken from us far too soon. Recommended.

    By Howard Dukes