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Grover Washington, Jr.

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Grover Washington, Jr.
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A gifted saxophonist who brought jazz into the mainstream, Grover Washington, Jr. is best remembered as a Grammy Award-winning pioneer of the popular smooth jazz sound. The Buffalo, NY-born musician first made his mark as a master of the soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones before signing to Elektra in 1979. Released the following year, Winelight was a perfect distillation of the Washington sound, merging traditional jazz’s improvisation and virtuosity with modern technology and a pop/soul sensibility. The RIAA platinum-certified album was highlighted by the massive hit single, “Just The Two Of Us,” featuring the distinctive vocals of soul icon Bill Withers. The now-classic song peaked at #2 on Billboard’s “Hot 100” before winning Grammy Awards in 1982 as both “Best R&B Song” and “Best Jazz Fusion Performance.” Washington recorded a range of further albums as a leader, including 1982’s The Best Is Yet To Come, the title track of which earned him yet another major hit single. In addition, the saxophonist teamed with artists ranging from jazz legends like Gerry Mulligan and Dexter Gordon to less likely collaborators such as renowned soprano Kathleen Battle. Washington died of a sudden heart attack on December 17, 1999 while taping an appearance on CBS’s The Saturday Early Show; he was 56.
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