Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Grover Washington Jr. - Mister Magic(1974)

This is one of Grover Washington, Jr.'s best-loved recordings and considered a classic of r&bish jazz.
All four songs (which includes Billy Strayhorn's "Passion Flower") are quite enjoyable but it is
"Mister Magic" that really caught on as a major hit. Bob James provided the colorful if somewhat
commercial arrangements, there are spots for guitarist Eric Gale, and Washington (mostly on tenor
and soprano) is heard in particularly creative form. Highly recommended.
~ Scott Yanow, All Music Guide

Grover Washington, Jr.
Mister Magic
Kudu Records

For anyone who enjoys taking bites from the now forbidden fruits of jazz, smooth jazz has probably
crossed your palate once or twice. Just as rock music fans treat adult contemporary with certain
disdain, so do jazz fans in regards to smooth. It is certainly easy to see why. The arrangements
are flooded with lush pop undertones and probably even worse; the music lacks jazz's guttural attack.
Smooth jazz self-destructed in a storm of cheesy synth and repetitive drum machine beats during the
'80s... remember some of David Sanborn's later records-1988's Close-up-or the horrid comatose of
Kenny G?

Before all this smooth had been an interesting and driven alternative to fusion. Once the sugar coating
is stripped away, the chops are often solid. What we have forgotten is smooth featured some killer
players who would be great regardless of their chosen genre. With that idea in mind, we as jazz fans
need to revaluate some of these records. There is no better representative than the late Grover
Washington, Jr.'s 1974 masterpiece, Mister Magic.

The first record for anyone looking to hear a positive example of smooth is all here. Fused an R&B
groove that is produced and arranged by future smooth mogul pianist Bob James, Mister Magic was a
spotlight for one jazz's great sax players. Washington absolutely breathed a fluid and caressingly
powerful style that was unique to him. Since the style called for easy playing, he could sit back
and let the chops glide like water flowing down a river. His melodies and tone are always first rate,
but there was a certain magic, if you will, to what this record has said about its artist. Many of
the smooth players relied on the direct approach to playing and soloing, but Washington allowed his
himself room to open up, and this where his music has the most to offer to the rest of jazz fans.
Sure the polish is on there, but the solos are not afraid to take flight either.

The title track harnesses the chrome plated polish of this genre's sound and lets in the tasty bits.
It starts out with a funk groove-did someone say Head Hunters?-and slowly builds into some finely
gnarled solos by Grover and guitarist Eric Gale. It was a crossover hit that grooved the light rock
AM crowd of the '70s and is still a great spin today.

This record is a lighter approach for those who are not willing to check the harder edged sounds that
are deliciously spread over Steely Dan's records, but these jazzites don't need rock mixes.
If you are still thinking I might be crazy, just think back to the 1980 hit with Bill Withers,
"Just the Two of Us," on Washington's Winelight. Godammit, you want to blow it off as easy listening
light rock, but that solo is mind blowing. There is a lot more where that came from. Just open up and
let the light fluffy background groove fly away and you will be rewarded for your time with Grover
Washington because he was truly one of the best we had.


Joseph Malin Violin
Harvey Mason, Sr. Drums
Charles McCracken Cello
Matthew Raimondi Violin
Alan Shulman Cello
Tony Studd Trombone (Bass)
The Manny Vardi Strings Viola
Grover Washington, Jr. Saxophone, Sax (Soprano), Sax (Alto), Sax (Tenor), Main Performer
Doug Ramsey Liner Notes
Bob Ciano Design
Alen MacWeeney Photography
Al Brown Viola
Ralph MacDonald Percussion
David Nadien Violin
Wayne Andre Trombone
Randy Brecker Trumpet
Max Ellen Violin
Eric Gale Guitar
Rudy Van Gelder Engineer
Paul Gershman Violin
Harry Glickman Violin
Harry Lookofsky Violin
Gary King Bass
Harold Kohon Violin
Phil Bodner Sax (Baritone)
Jon Faddis Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Bob James Piano, Piano (Electric), Keyboards, Arranger, Conductor
Marvin Stamm Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Phil Upchurch Bass


  1. Grover Washington Jr. - Mister Magic - 1. Earth Tones

  2. Grover Washington Jr. - Mister Magic - 2. Passion Flower

  3. Grover Washington Jr. - Mister Magic - 3. Mister Magic

  4. Grover Washington Jr. - Mister Magic - 4. Black Frost

Quali: 320
Size: 76 MB
Source: Vinyl



1 comment:

  1. Wonderful article. I been looking for one on a similar note. I guess you always have something up your sleeve.