When Jason Miles asked himself how he could pay tribute to the man who had impacted his love of the New York groove sound, he immediately thought of re-releasing some of the songs that made Grover Washington, Jr. a legend in his own time. Those thoughts culminated with a live album recorded at the Blue Note in Japan in June 2010 featurng a coterie of jazz musicians Jason brought together for the occasion. The result is Jason Miles Presents: To Grover With Love/Live In Japan and it’s a keeper.
Packed with funky riffs, contemporary jazz and grooves that won’t quit, these 9 songs brought the audience at the Blue Note in Japan to their feet in appreciation for the late saxophonist and for the band which included Jason Miles on Fender Rhodes, Nord Electro, Prophet 08, Andy Snitzer on tenor saxophone, Eric Darius on tenor saxophone, Gerald Veasley on bass guitar, Nick Moroch on guitar, Buddy Williams on drums and Ralph McDonald on percussion and special guest Ryan Shaw, vocalist on “Just the Two of Us”
Among the songs on this excellent live recording are many that made Grover Washington, Jr. a household name in his heyday. It opens with an eight minute version of “Winelight” during which the featured saxophonist captures the true essence of Washington. “Sassy Stew” is just that…a stylized mix of great saxophonics out front of a funky rhythm section that covers the funk from A-Z. Jason Miles introduces “Inner City Blues,” and gets the audience in an ‘old school’ groove. Marvin Gaye’s vocals are replaced by some amazing saxophonics from both Andy Snitzer and Eric Darius.
Ryan Shaw shines on “Just the Two of Us” after a superb introduction by Jason Miles on keyboards. Ralph MacDonald who plays percussion on the recording also co-wrote “Just the Two of Us,” and “Mr. Magic,” two of Grover’s biggest hits. Hearing him collaborate with a new generation of musicians is a wonderful musical experience. Unfortunately he too passed away shortly after recording the album. In a heartfelt memoriam, Jason Miles has dedicated the album to him.
Overall, Jason Miles Presents: To Grover With Love/Live In Japan captures the true essence of Grover Washington, Jr.'s style and is certainly worth adding to your collection of great live jazz recordings. Currently available on Whaling City Sound.