Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. When in 2006 I reviewed Jason Miles tribute to Grover Washington Jr, To Grover With Love, I referred to it as a piece of music that needed to be taken seriously and not confused with what at first glance might be passed off as a collection of covers. The production skills of Miles, both in the selection of tracks and the choice of musicians, succeeded in re-imagining familiar songs into something new and fresh while retaining the incredible feeling and passion that Washington Jr. routinely possessed. It was never Miles intention to produce a follow up but after he had again listened to Come Morning (Washington’s follow up to Winelight) and then Strawberry Moon he realized that indeed there was another Grover project waiting to be done. The result, 2 Grover With Love, is an understated masterpiece that in terms of quality and sophistication is ‘miles ahead’ of anything else produced in the contemporary jazz genre this year.
Miles turns to Come Morning for the sumptuous ‘Making Love To You’ where Najee is exceptional on sax and stays there for ‘Reaching Out’. Andy Snitzer on soprano sax handles its hypnotic vibe with aplomb and does much the same for the Marcus Miller composition ‘Summer Nights’. Originally from Washington’s excellent 1987 offering Strawberry Moon it is as smooth as smooth can be yet even better is the title cut from that same album which here results in a virtuoso performance from Miles.
The deliciously sultry ‘Reed Seed’ features a mellow Jay Beckenstein on sax. It’s the title track from Washington’s 1977 Motown album and another tune that originated on that label is ‘Bright Moments’ from the 1979 Skylarkin. Chuck Loeb on guitar makes the invitingly tranquil groove his own and when ‘Mister Magic’ makes a welcome return from Miles original Grover recording it is given a sensational makeover courtesy of Maysa’s superbly atmospheric vocal.
‘The Saddest Thing’ is actually from the 1974 release Power of Soul by drummer Idris Muhammad. As well as featuring Washington’s unmistakable playing it also included arrangements and keyboards by Bob James, Randy Brecker on trumpet and the legendary percussion of Ralph MacDonald. Here, with the sax of Kim Waters sending shivers down the spine and segueing delightfully with trumpet from Dominick Farinacci the tune has never been in better hands. Without doubt it is one of the albums standout tracks yet right up there with it is the delectable ‘Moonstream’. From Washington’s 1975 Bob James arranged Feels So Good, and with the trumpet of Farinacci center stage, it rises from turned down beginnings to an urgent end and has all the attributes of timeless contemporary jazz.
A brand new Jason Miles interpretation of ‘Stolen Moments’ from the 1988 project Then and Now is helped in no small part by Snitzer on sax, the guitar of Loeb, some terrific trumpet by Farinacci and Miles own retro tinged keyboards. Evocative of a smoky jazz club from times long gone it checks all the right boxes as does the CD’s one original number, the Jason Miles composition ‘To Grover With Love’. With a luscious chill out groove it’s the perfect antidote to this crazy credit crunched world.
Out on the Koch label, 2 Grover With Love is the perfect device with which to scrape away the bland veneer that overlays much of today’s smooth jazz. It comes hugely recommended. For more information go to www.jasonmilesmusic.comPosted by Denis Poole at November 23, 2008 2:49 PM