great Grover Washington Jr., 56, dies
By Frederick Cusick
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Renowned jazz musician Grover Washington Jr., 56, died last night after
collapsing during a
television production at CBS studios in New York.
Mr. Washington collapsed around 6:30 p.m. while waiting at the CBS studios
after taping four
songs for a performance on today's Early Show, said Hal Gessner, the show's
Security staff members were summoned and cardiopulmonary resuscitation
Mr. Washington was taken to St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, where he was
pronounced dead at
about 7:30 p.m., according to Jim Mandler, a hospital spokesman. Mandler
said that the medical
examiner has scheduled an autopsy.
Mr. Washington, who moved to Philadelphia in the 1960s, was born Dec. 12,
1943, in Buffalo.
A jazz saxophonist to whom the word virtuoso was often applied, Mr. Washington
the instrument at age 10. Over the years, he put out numerous albums.
His career took off in 1970 when he was featured on Johnny "Hammond" Smith's
arranged a cover of the Carole King song "It's Too Late."
Mr. Washington put out his first solo record, the acclaimed Inner City
Blues, when he wound up
doing a solo intended for tenor saxophonist Hank Crawford, who was unable
to make the studio
date at the last minute.
After signing with Elektra, Mr. Washington put out his most successful
album. Winelight, which
featured Bill Withers on the song "Just the Two of Us," made it to No.
5 on the charts in 1981.
Mr. Washington was known for attaining a middle ground between jazz and
A performance last year with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops at the Academy
of Music captured
the master musician at his peak. A reviewer described how Mr. Washington
handled the old
standard "You Are My Sunshine."
"It's a swinging tune," the reviewer said, "but Washington made it soar.
He approached it gently,
circled it, sent it skyward and then brought it gently to earth for a soft
Beyond music, Mr. Washington enjoyed sports. He was a fixture performing
the national anthem
before 76ers games. He was a close friend of Sixers star Julius Erving
and even wrote a song about
the player, titled "Let It Flow."
Mr. Washington also participated in other civic affairs. Just this week,
it was announced that he
would perform at the Jan. 3 inauguration of Mayor-elect John F. Street.
Mr. Washington was also active in inspiring younger musicians. In April,
he performed with
students at Episcopal Academy. He talked about his attitude toward music.
"Every time I play in front of an audience, I think, 'This might be the
last time,' " Mr. Washington
said. "I try to make every day, every note, every thought count. Let the
music happen; play what
you feel from your heart. It should always be fun."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Grover Washington Dies
By JOANN LOVIGLIO
The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA (Dec. 18) - With a combination
of technical prowess and
heart-on-his-sleeve passion, Grover Washington
Jr. brought jazz to the masses
and influenced a generation of young musicians.
The 56-year-old saxophonist, who won a
Grammy award with his 1980
breakthrough album ''Winelight,'' died
late Friday after collapsing at a
television taping in New York City. He
had lived in Philadelphia since 1967.
''As a person he was the sweetest guy in
the world ... so humble for such a
giant of a talent, which is a rare quality
in this profession to find in a
person,'' Peter Nero, conductor of the
Philly Pops orchestra, said Saturday.
''He will sorely be missed. Whether we'll
ever hear anything like him again,
I don't know,'' he said.
Washington's virtuosity on soprano, tenor,
alto and baritone saxophones -
amplified by his crossover style that
blended elements of jazz, pop and soul
- resulted in numerous Grammy nominations
during his 40-year career.
''Winelight'' won two Grammy Awards, for
best jazz-fusion recording and for
best R&B song for the title, ''Just
the Two of Us.''
President Clinton said in a statement that
he would ''always be grateful for
the honor of playing saxophone with Grover
back in 1993, after a White House
jazz concert, and for the wonderful music
he performed at my inaugural
celebrations and my 50th birthday celebration.
''Grover Washington was as versatile as
any jazz musician in America, moving
with ease and fluency from vintage jazz
to funk, and from gospel to blues to
pop,'' Clinton said. ''I will miss both
the man and his music.''
Washington played as a guest with the Philly
Pops for four performances last
year and was a collaborator on one of
''He was a great role model for kids through
his work bringing music to
schools,'' Nero said. ''He was a rare
human being and a rare artist.''
At the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz &
Performing Arts, an institution
believed to be the only music school ever
established specifically for jazz
instruction, Washington often made speaking
appearances and mentored young
talent, including the local combo, Pieces
of a Dream.
''Grover is the father of the modern saxophone,
the father of the new sound.
The thing Kenny G and some of the others
are doing, Grover was doing first,''
said Lovett Hines, 56, the Clef Club education
program director and who knew
Washington since 1966. ''He could play
all the horns with the same emotion,
facility, warmth, beauty, polish and passion.''
Hines called a past July 4 performance
in Philadelphia by Washington ''the
most devastating performance I ever heard.
He switched horns four times but
you never heard a break'' in the flow.
''I just can't see anyone else like him
coming along,'' Hines said. ''I
haven't heard anyone at this point with
the originality and more than
anything else, that groove that he had.
''Other guys play the melody really pretty
and they do all the high notes,
but I never heard anyone do it like Grover.
Maybe it's a lost art,'' he said.
Clef Club teacher Charles Bowen, 56, also
started playing with Washington in
1966 and said his style is often imitated
but will never be duplicated. While
some critics have called his ''smooth
jazz'' style too commercial, Bowen said
Washington simply played from the heart.
''People gravitated toward his music because
it was real,'' Bowen said. ''We
tell our students that to play something
as a way of making a living is
dishonest; to play something that comes
from the depths of your soul is
honest. And Grover was honest.''
saxophonist Grover Washington dies
NEW YORK, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Renowned American
saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. died on Friday in New York
from an apparent heart attack, just minutes after taping a final
television performance, a hospital spokesman said.
Washington, 56, was brought to New York's St.
Luke's-Roosevelt hospital Friday evening after collapsing in his
dressing room after taping a performance for CBS's Saturday
Early Show, said spokesman Jim Mandler.
The performance aired on Saturday morning, with Washington
looking in fine form as he played with a six-member band and
showing no obvious sign of fatigue or illness. ``Needless to say,
we are stunned and incredibly saddened,'' said a CBS producer
present at the taping, who asked not to be named. ``I even
remarked to myself about how fit he looked, how spry.''
A CBS security guard gave Washington CPR in his dressing
room but was unable to revive him. After learning of the
musician's death, CBS producers discussed whether to air his
last performance but decided in the end to broadcast it
``because it was what he loved,'' said the producer.
President Bill Clinton, himself an accomplished sax player,
issued a statement calling Washington one of the United States'
greatest musicians and saying he and first lady Hillary Rodham
Clinton were sad to hear of Washington's death.
``I will always be grateful for the honour of playing saxophone
with Grover back in 1993, after a White House jazz concert, and
for the wonderful music he performed at my inaugural
celebrations and my 50th birthday celebration,'' the statement
``I will miss both the man and his music,'' Clinton said, noting
Washington's versatility and ability to play all genres of music.
Washington had been promoting a new album, ``Prime Cuts: the
Columbia Recordings 1987-99.''
Born in Buffalo, New York, and the son of a sax player,
Washington began playing music at age 10 and started
performing a few years later. He left home at age 16 to tour with
a Columbus, Ohio-based band, the Four Clefs.
As versatile as he was talented, Washington played soprano,
tenor, alto and baritone saxophone as well as clarinet, bass and
A resident of Philadelphia, Washington fused jazz and soul
music, as in his hit rendition of Bill Withers' ``Just the Two of
Us,'' which featured Withers' vocal and a long, mellow solo by
Washington. He was a major influence on contemporary sax
players including Kenny G and David Sanborn.
His albums included ``Inner
City Blues,'' ``Mr.
Magic,'' arranged by Bob
James, was the first of eight Washington albums to reach the
top of the jazz charts, and the first to go gold.
His last record to hit No. 1 on the jazz charts was ``Next
1992, which contained the hit ``Summer Chill,'' which was
co-written with his son and nominated for a Grammy.
He also played the themes for two popular television series,
``The Cosby Show'' and ``Moonlighting.''