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6 Degrees Entertainment

Title - 'Sacred Kind Of Love: The Columbia Recordings'
Artist - Grover Washington, Jr.

For those not in the know, Grover Washington Jr. (December 12, 1943 – December 17, 1999) was an American jazz-funk / soul-jazz saxophonist.

Along with George Benson, John Klemmer, David Sanborn, Bob James, Chuck Mangione, Dave Grusin, Herb Alpert, and Spyro Gyra, he is considered by many to be one of the founders of the smooth jazz genre.

Indeed he wrote some of his material and later became an arranger and producer.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Washington made some of the genre's most memorable hits, including "Mister Magic", "Reed Seed", "Black Frost", "Winelight", "Inner City Blues" and "The Best is Yet to Come".

In addition, he performed very frequently with other artists, including Bill Withers on "Just the Two of Us" (still in regular rotation on radio today), Patti LaBelle on "The Best Is Yet to Come" and Phyllis Hyman on "A Sacred Kind of Love".

He is also remembered for his take on the Dave Brubeck classic "Take Five", and for his 1996 version of "Soulful Strut".

Washington had a preference for black nickel-plated saxophones made by Julius Keilwerth which also included a SX90R alto and SX90R tenor. He also played Selmer Mark VI alto in the early years, but his main soprano was a black nickel-plated H. Couf Superba II (also built by Keilwerth for Herbert Couf) and a Keilwerth SX90 in the last years of his life.

SoulMusic Records (via Cherry Red Records) now presents Sacred Kind Of Love: The Columbia Recordings, a 5-CD deluxe box-set of six stellar albums, spanning nine years (1987-1996) by the legendary saxophonist himself, Grover Washington, Jr.

Four of the six albums – Strawberry Moon (1987), Time Out Of Mind (1989), Next Exit (1992) and Soulful Strut (1996), his final LP for Columbia – achieved success on the U.S. R&B, jazz and pop charts, while two albums, 1988’s Then And Now (with guest players such as Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Grady Tate) and 1994’s All My Tomorrows (featuring Eddie Henderson, Bobby Watson, Hank Jones, Robin Eubanks and Billy Hart) were both critically acclaimed by audiences; demonstrating Grover’s skill as a ‘straight ahead’ jazz musician of the first order.

Justifiably considered an influential pioneer in fusing jazz, soul, R&B and pop and bringing his distinctive sound to mainstream audiences globally throughout his career, this box-set also includes detailed liner notes by renowned UK writer Charles Waring that include comments from Ramsey Lewis; a personal tribute to Washington by reissue producer and founder David Nathan; with first class mastering by Nick Robbins and superb artwork by Roger Williams.

CD 1 - Strawberry Moon (1987)
1. "Strawberry Moon"
2. "The Look of Love" (Feat. Jean Carne)
3. "Shivaree Ride"
4. "Caught a Touch of Your Love"
5. "Maddie's Blues"
6. "I Will Be Here for You"
7. "Monte Carlo Nights"
8. "Keep in Touch" (Feat. Jean Carne)
9. "Summer Nights"

Then And Now (1988)
10. "Blues for D.P"
11. "Just Enough"
12. "French Connections"
13. "Something Borrowed, Something Blue"
14. "Lullaby for Shana Bly"

The sounds of Grover Washington's saxophone are indeed very soothing, especially more so here on his brilliant Strawberry Moon album. The special effects from the synthesizers and the percussion merely add to the songs rather than over color them as other artists sometimes do.

The themes on each of the songs are also quite memorable. "Caught A Touch Of Your Love" is probably the most memorable piece on this collection as BB King delivers some fine vocals and guitar licks in between Grover's tender sax sounds.

"The Look Of Love", "Monte Carlo Nights", and the title track itself also are very memorable mostly due to the balance between the instruments with the bass lines on the latter just pulsating.

Then And Now (which is weirdly spread over two CDs) is one of Washington, Jr.'s occasional strays away from R&B-oriented jazz to play in a more straight ahead setting, so to speak.

Switching between soprano, alto and tenor, he is accompanied by either Tommy Flanagan or Herbie Hancock on piano during some of the selections as he performs such numbers as Ron Carter's "Blues for D.P.," "French Connections" and both "Stolen Moments" and "Stella by Starlight" with swing and taste. (Oh, and tenor-saxophonist Igor Butman also helps out on three songs).

CD 2 - Here And Now (1988) (Continued)
1. "Stolen Moments"
2. "In a Sentimental Mood"
3. "Stella By Starlight"

Time Out Of Mind (1989)
4. "Jamaica"
5. "Gramercy Park"
6. "Sacred Kind of Love" (Feat. Phyllis Hyman)
7. "Brand New Age"
8. "Fly Away"
9. "Don't Take Your Love from Me"
10. "Time Out of Mind"
11. "Split Second (Act II, the Bar Scene)"
12. "Nice-N-Easy"
13. "Unspoken Love"
14. "Protect the Dream"

Washington never followed trends when it came to his music - he made them. Ergo this album from the '80s was magical in its time. Today it is still a pleasure to hear. Not bop, nor smooth jazz, he had a sophistication all of his own. Musically, he gave much and was truly respected for not just his talent but his sharing and caring.

It's obvious that Grover Washington Jr. also had an ear for talent. Check out the great soul diva Phyllis Hyman on "Sacred Kind Of Love". Grover's sax and Phyllis' voice blend beautifully to make it a timeless song.

"Unspoken Love" has smoldering moments intermingled with tender interludes as it's a rather gorgeous sax solo full of soul and depth. Oh, and "Protect The Dream" will take you away as you get caught up inside it.

CD 3 - Next Exit (1992)
1. "Take Five (Another Five)"
2. "Your Love"
3. "Only for You (Siempre Para D'sera)"
4. "Greene Street"
5. "Next Exit"
6. "I Miss Home"
7. "Love Like This" (Feat. Lalah Hathaway)
8. "Summer Chill"
9. "Till You Return to Me"
10. "Get on Up"
11. "Check Out Grover"

All My Tomorrows (1994)
1. "É Preciso Perdoar"
2. "When I Fall in Love"
3. "I'm Glad There Is You"
4. "Happenstance"

CD 4 - All My Tomorrows (1994) (Continued)
5. "All My Tomorrows"
6. "Nature Boy"
7. "Please Send Me Someone to Love"
8. "Overjoyed"
9. "Flamingo"
10. "For Heaven's Sake"
11. "Estate ("Ess-Tah-Tay") (In Summer)"
12. "Every Day a Little Death" (From a Little Night Music) - Bonus Track

My main reason for loving Next Exit so much is because of my favorite (of all-time) vocalist Ms. Nancy Wilson's rendition of "Your Love." Wow, what an incredible, soulful touch she brings to this wondrous song.

But there is so much more to love on this album that after my second listening all these years later I was mesmerized and actually fell in love with the whole album.

I love the Latin-flavored hipsway beat that swoops and dances itself way through most all of the songs along with the overall timeless of his music.

Indeed, Washington's sax shares time with vocal tracks featuring the likes of not just Wilson, but Lalah Hathaway, and the Four Tops too, of course.

Sadly, yet again, another of his albums has been spread across two CDs, this time his great album All My Tomorrows. Here, Washington is joined by a fantastic band with plenty of delicious piano by Hank Jones.

I fell in love at first with the opening and last tracks of this album, but after few more listening sessions (most notably in my car, top down, summer sun on my face, I can now conclude that entire album blends perfectly; revealing a very relaxing atmosphere, full of beautiful tunes.

Ergo, for my money, All My Tomorrows is an overlooked gem from the reedman, recorded in his later years, but a set that's actually got more of an acoustic style overall – and one that goes back to the roots farther than any of Grover's fusion records, to my mind.

CD 5 - Soulful Street (1996)
1. "Soulful Strut"
2. "Can You Stop the Rain"
3. "Play That Groove for Me"
4. "Bordertown"
5. "I Can Count the Times"
6. "Village Groove"
7. "Headman's Haunt"
8. "Poacher Man"
9. "Mystical Force"
10. "Uptown"
11. "Heat Index" - Bonus Track
12. "The Night Fantastic" - Bonus Track

Soulful Strut is a typically smooth and swinging date from Washington where, in all honesty, and maybe only to my ear, sure, but occasionally, the production by Walter Afanasieff is a wee bit too slick and commercial; diluting the impact of Washington's subtle, relaxed groove.

Fortunately, Washington's instrumental skills cut through the gloss, making Soulful Strut another worthy record for mainstream soul-jazz fans.

Various special guest vocal performances by Jean Carne ("The Look Of Love", 'Keep In Touch"), Phyllis Hyman ("Sacred Kind Of Love"), B.B. King ("Caught A Touch Of Your Love"), Nancy Wilson ("Your Love"), Lalah Hathaway ("Love Like This") and The Four Tops’ Levi Stubbs ("Till You Return To Me") are among the many highlights of Grover’s tenure with Columbia Records along with bonus tracks, "Protect The Dream" (originally released on the CD version of Time Out Mind); "Every Day A Little Death", (from the 1995 Sony album, Color And Light: Jazz Sketches On Sondheim); "Heat Index" and "The Night Fantastic", both originally included on Prime Cuts, a Columbia Records compilation released in 1999 - the year Grover passed away at the age of 56.

Official 5CD Box-Set Purchase Link