A saxophonist of many talents in the soul/jazz and jazz/funk field and considered by many to be one of the founders of jazz fusion, this cracking 5-CD package focuses on Grover Washington Jr’s Columbia tenure. Already established in his field, he signed with the company in 1986 after spells with Kudu and Elektra Records. “Strawberry Moon” is self-produced barring two titles: “Summer Nights” where Marcus Miller takes production credit and “I Will Be Here For You” co-produced by Grover and Michael J. Powell.  The former was released as a top four R&B single, while the actual album was his first in three years and his debut for Columbia.  Worth checking out here is B B King’s contribution to the mid-paced “Caught A Touch Of Your Love”, while one of Bacharach and David’s finest emotive ballads “The Look Of Love” features the unequaled Jean Carn.  She’s featured on the more upbeat “Keep In Touch” as well.

Released in 1988, “Then And Now” moved away from his recognizable R&B sound, to feature Herbie Hancock and Tommy Flanagan on keyboards.  I zoomed in on a pair of ballads, “Just Enough” and “Something Borrowed, Something Blue”; both pure magic.  Recorded in Philadelphia with a studio full of musicians, “Time Out Of Mind” offers some credible dance titles, including the funk-slanted “Split Second (Act II The Bar Scene)”. That aside, feel the Latino beat in “Nice ‘N’ Easy”, or relax to the reflective “Protect The Dream”. However, not to be missed is the mid-paced “Sacred Kind Of Love” featuring the wonderful Phyllis Hyman on vocals.  “Summer Chill”, co-penned by Grover’s son and nominated for a Grammy, is a feature on his 1992 release “Next Exit”. This time a trio of guest vocalists are major attractions.  On the soulful  “Till You Return To Me”, you’ll hear the Four Tops’ Levi Stubbs; Nancy Wilson on the slow paced “Your Love”, and Lalah Hathaway on the string based “Love Like This”.  Excellent teaming of voices and music.

The 1994 “All My Tomorrows” was, at the time, considered to be Grover’s first all-acoustic album, returning to his roots as he plays soprano and tenor sax with the help of several A-liner musicians, including Hank Jones and Eddie Henderson.  A couple of immediate highlights here; Grover’s take on Nat King Cole’s “When I Fall In Love” and the slowie “For Heaven’s Sake”, where Cole’s younger brother Freddy duets with Dizzy Gillespie’s daughter Jeanie.  Almost unrecognisable is Grover’s jazz re-working of Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” which is a pity.

The final CD in this box set but not his last for Columbia – “Soulful Strut” from 1996 – is probably more commercially slick than the others, while Grover hangs on to his soul/jazz groove. He mixes hip/hop and jazz/funk with “Uptown”, while takes on a laid back seam on “Mystical Force”.  In this musical pot pourie, jungle sounds introduce  “Poacher Man” and immediately grabbed my interest as Grover (rightly) condemns illegal rhino and elephant hunting in Africa.  Authentic African voices close his heartfelt protest. There are extensive notes by our respected Charles Waring tucked away in this rather lavish package, and a personal tribute from David Nathan, re-issue producer and founder of  Congratulations to all concerned.

Rating: 10


================================================================================VARIOUS ARTISTS: MASTERPIECES OF MODERN SOUL VOLUME 5 (KENT)

What an impressive selection of tracks, covering most music genres from major and less-major artists. I was instantly grabbed by the opening song – The Mighty Whites’ “Given My Life”. Smooth as silk, with a lifting chorus and well-crafted vocals. According to the blurb, the unreleased master was originally issued as an inferior title under the Brotherhood moniker in 1978. Anyway, Millie Jackson’s “I’ll Continue To Love You” took me by surprise; a previously unissued dance edit, and, my, does she strut her stuff. From the start, you’re immediately in the groove – another favourite. Likewise, “Mrs So And So’s Daughter” from Loleatta Holloway; again an unissued edit from a lady whose voice often defied gravity. Such an under-rated artist in commercial quarters.

Major Lance’s “That’s The Story Of My Life” and Freddie Scott’s “I Guess God Wants It This Way” are also compulsive listening, while Lee Porter & Peaceful Persuasion’s “Nobody’s Doin’ A Doggone Thing” is an interesting insight into social commentary without being dictatorial. Eddie Floyd, The Headliners, The Independents, and the recently-discovered C.J. & Co’s re-visited “Rainmaker”, previously recorded by The Moods, are compelling on several levels. In fact, this is a wonderfully rounded compilation and one that will instantly appeal to collectors of rare soul items, but not, I’d have thought, to commercially-slanted buyers.
Rating: 8