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Grover Washington Jr. Captures Pure Elegance

By Michael Henningsen

Of all musical instruments, the tone, character and timbre of the saxophone is closest to those of the human voice--the most compelling of all instruments, bar none. And for the past 25 years, sax master Grover Washington Jr. has used his instrument to "sing" some of the most graceful, intricate crossover jazz music known to man. He possesses a unique gift for infusing R&B and soul into his jazz, creating a provocative, steamy sound that has as much in common with Sly Stone as it does Cannonball Adderley. Washington, quite literally, has made a career of blowing audiences away.

His professional career began at age 12 with R&B and blues groups in his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. In the early 1960s, Washington moved to the Midwest to play with a group known as the Four Clefs. After a stint in the army--where he was introduced to influential drummer Billy Cobham and several other prominent New York musicians--he began freelancing in New York and Philadelphia, finally establishing himself as a major presence among young jazz saxophonists with the release of his first solo effort, Breakout.

By the early 1970s, Washington had become one of the premiere players on the jazz scene, having worked with Creed Taylor, Bob James, Randy Weston, Eric Gale and Dave Grusin. In the two decades encompassing the '70s and '80s, Washington expanded his impressive résumé to include the likes of B.B. King, Steve Gadd, Patti LaBelle, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and many others.

With nine gold and platinum albums, two Grammy Awards (four nominations) and countless other recordings, production and composition credits under his belt, Washington has soared in the '90s with three phenomenal solo albums. His exclusive Albuquerque performance will feature Washington backed by his seasoned sextet. A more soulful saxophonist you won't find. Be a part of this historic event.

--Michael Henningsen

Grover Washington Jr. and his sextet will perform Thursday, June 19 at the Hiland Theater as part of the New Mexico Jazz Workshop's Summer Jazz Series 1997. Concert time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 orchestra/$20 balcony available in advance from the New Mexico Jazz Workshop (255-9798). Tickets will be available at the door for $30.

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