Wednesday, April 7, 2010

CD of the Day - "Grover Washington, Jr.: Reed Seed"

CD of the Day
Grover Washington, Jr.: "Reed Seed" (Motown/Verve) 1978/2009

A digipak remastered edition supervised by Harry Weigner for the Verve Originals series, it's the first CD reissue ever of "Reed Seed," Grover's first album for Motown. Actually, it's a long story: Grover was signed to CTI/Kudu since 1971, but the label owed a huge ammount of money to Motown, its distributor at that time. Then, to pay his debt, CTI boss Creed Taylor offered to transfer to Motown not only the master tape rights of all albums that Grover (1943-1999) had recorded for Kudu, as well as Grover's contract, since the saxophonist was still owing two albums for Creed.

Motown accepted the deal. And "Reed Seed" was born as the first session produced by Grover himself, recorded & mixed at Ridge Sound Studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But he took the tapes to be mastered by Rudy Van Gelder at the Van Gelder Studio in New Jersey, where all his previous Kudu albums had been recorded (except for the live date "Live at Bijou").

Released in late 1978, "Reed Seed" became a #1 Jazz Album, #7 R&B Album and #35 Pop in the Billboard Pop Charts. But, curiously, it failed to provide a hit single: "Do Dat" (propelled by James Simmons' clavinet, Doc Gibbs' cuica & tambourine, and Tyrone Brown's pumping bass) peaked only #75 at R&B singles chart, despite the strong pop appeal of its infectious groove. Btw, the song composers, Gibbs & violinist John Blake, stand out among the sidemen, playing brilliantly throughout the album.

Grover opted to feature his own touring band, known as Locksmith, rather than the usual all-star suspects (Ron Carter, Eric Gale, Billy Cobham, Idris Muhammad, Gary King etc) invited by Creed to Grover's previous studio albums for CTI/Kudu. The group, which had just released a single ("Summer Song") on CTI, consisted of Leonard "Doc" Gibbs (percussion), John Blake (electric violin, piano, Polymoog Synthesizer, Omni String Ensemble, Fender Rhodes, Hohner clavinet), Tyrone Brown (acoustic & electric basses), Richard Lee Steacker (electric guitar), Milard "Pete" Vinson (drums) and James "Sid" Simmons (acoustic & electric pianos, clavinet) plus guest vocalists Jeanine Otis, Lita Boggs & Rita Boggs.

Grover Washington, Jr. employed all the four types of saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone - often overdubbing two or three of them in the same tunes) and also used flutes (on "Maracas Beach"). On Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are," for instance, he plays the melody on alto, soloing on the baritone. And the best soprano sax solo happens on Richard Steacker's "Step 'n' Thru."

The highlights are the two longer tracks: "Santa Cruzin" (a collaborative creation signed by all band members, with Grover on soprano, Simmons on acoustic piano, and Gibbs using timbales, cowbell and shakers) and a faster tempo version of Grover's own "Loran's Dance," originally inspired by one of his daughters and originally recorded in a laid-back mood on drummer Idris Muhammad's debut LP for Kudu, "Power of Soul" (1974), which featured Grover and Randy Brecker as main soloists. Two decades later, Idris' version of "Loran's Dance" would become a hit on the dancefloor-jazz market, being included in the best-selling compilation "CTI: Acid Jazz Groves," produced by Arnaldo DeSouteiro in 1996. We miss you, Grover.

1 comment:

Larry Marshall said...

We truly do miss you Grover.....I was so honored to have worked with the whole 'crew' .......
Jeannine otis