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Various Artists: To Grover, With Love

A loving, meaningful tribute to another great legend, To Grover, With Love (Q Records /Atlantic 92945-2; 70:58) offers consistently amazing performances of timeless pieces, celebrating the full range of Grover Washington Jr.’s groundbreaking work. Producer Jason Miles culls stretching, stellar work from his cast-from guitarist Russ Freeman, singing and stinging on the bustling, spirited “East River Drive,” to flutist Herbie Mann soaring and dancing through Grover’s signature tune, “Mr. Magic.” Clearly inspired saxophonists Everette Harp (the dark, edgy funk “Black Frost”) and Jay Beckenstein (playing bustling soul on the bassy paean to Julius “Dr. J” Erving, “Let It Flow”) give it their all. The chart-topping pop chestnut “Just the Two of Us” is lent a soulful, sparkling optimism through Regina Belle’s vocals, Steve Cole’s tenor sax and George Duke’s keyboard work. But Grover himself never played one of the most affecting pieces here: “Love Me Still,” penned by Chaka Khan and Bruce Hornsby, was picked by Miles as a perfect tune for Washington’s next project-one he never got to record. This glorious love song, warm and gentle in its wry romantic observation and sweeping string arrangement, is a haunting tribute. As Khan sings “Only you sing / Get inside of me” you feel a yearning for a tremendous talent, gone too soon.

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