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Jason Miles : 2 Grover With Love

Next year will mark 10 years since the world lost Grover Washington Jr., the much-admired saxophonist as proficient on the alto, tenor and soprano as anyone in his day. Washington could play mean straightahead, but of course instead trail-blazed the way for many of the smooth urban saxers today. Jason Miles, today’s undisputed champion of contemporary-jazz tribute CDs, in offering his sequel to 2001’s To Grover With Love, assumed there was even yet more Grover to go around, even after offering some of his biggest hits (“Winelight,” “Mr. Magic,” “Just the Two of Us”) the first time out. He’s right, of course, and this collection exposes casual listeners to a few Washington gems that that winged under the cultural radar.

“Strawberry Moon” is the most recognizable track, and Miles breathes new life into it with his piano soloing and synth shadings. Adding their own colors to the project as featured saxophonists are Andy Snitzer with “Summer Nights” and “Reaching Out,” Najee with “Making Love to You” and Jay Beckenstein with “Reed Seed.” The four highlights you’ll find yourself returning to will be a terrific vocal version of “Mr. Magic” with Maysa, an exotic “Moonstreams” with Dominic Farinacci’s trumpet and Miles’ trippy keys, a swinging “Stolen Moments” with Miles, Snitzer and guitarist Chuck Loeb (who also solos on “Bright Moments”), and Miles’ original “To Grover With Love.” He dedicates that one to organ trios. Washington played in a lot of these, Miles says, and the keyboardist has created an unexpectedly bright song as he trades riffs with guitarist Dean Brown.

Originally Published