IN jazz circles, Grover Washington Jr. is even unique because though he has been commercially successful in a big way, he still appeals to the hard-headed jazz fraternity. But Grover is currently enjoying his finest hour to date with both single and album — both entitled "Mister Magic" — literally leaping their way to the top of pop, soul and jazz charts. Suffice to say, both are top in the jazz circuit because that's where Grover's home market is. "We had a lot of fun making it," Grover enthused, speaking from somewhere in California during his cross-America tour. "I don't think it's like the other albums I've made, do you? It's something of a new direction which we all sat down and thought out. Take "Earth Tones", for example — it's a completely new sound from anything you've ever heard me do, right? Bob James — who wrote that particular tune and who did all of the arrangements and conducting for the album — always contributes so much positive thought to my albums and he thought up a four part idea for that tune and then ran it through a phase shifter and that's close to what I would call an ideal sound."
On the subject of Bob James, Grover is more than specific — "he's a genius," Grover explodes! "He's the type of guy who gets involved in whatever he's doing — whether it's his album, mine or whoever. On this album, he has just about as much involvement as he usually does — it's just that since he has had his own success, he's getting more namechecks! As an arranger, he is unique because he has the ability to never tell the same story twice and that is so important. I just want to go in print as saying that I'm so very happy now that he is successful — it all couldn't happen to a nicer, more sincere guy!"
On the subject of jazz revival, Graver is equally explicit: "It restores my faith in audiences. It's a direct result of music being admired and played for its quality content. And to my way of thinking, it's a double treat because both the audience and musicians are thrilled with the way jazz has fared over the last year or two. Take a guy like Herbie Hancock and the success he has had — but look at the man's versatility. He has succeeded in so many idioms — right down to a movie score. And a guy like Donald Byrd who has been so successful — he has worked so hard and patiently for his major break."
On the subject of Grover Washington Jr. our hero is less vociferous: "I'm a perfectionist by nature, man, so I'm never satisfied. I try to do different things every time. On this album, I have added the same kind of rhythm that has made Herbie and Donald so successful — with my own little changes and touch, of course! It's been a worthwhile experiment — I'm always experimenting, though! But I owe a lot to the people who are involved in the album — Bob, you know about; and Harvey Mason (drums) who flew across the country from California to New York for the session; Ralph McDonald, who is for me the greatest percussionist of them all; and Phil Up-church on bass. Every one on the session was sensational and that made the album what it is."
On the subject of the future, Grover gets a little cagey: "You haven't heard the best of me yet! I play baritone sax, too, now and I'll be using that on my next experiment — I mean album! And I have started to write my own material — in fact, we cut some of my own compositions for the "Mister Magic" LP but we had more than enough and so I cut my own tunes out. I think you'll find that will add a new dimension to my music because my rhythms are completely different from anything I have recorded. I admit I have become very influenced by Latin and African rhythms and you'll hear all of that with the next album. In the meantime, I'd love to be able to travel with the musicians who made the "Mister Magic" album — all 48 of them!"
And I'd love to be there when it happens because that would be a concert not to be missed.