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Grover Washington Jr.
Grover Washington Jr.
December 17, 1999
Age 56
Heart Attack 

Philadelphia Inquirer
Jazz 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 executive producer. 
                      Security staff members were summoned and cardiopulmonary resuscitation was performed, 
                      Gessner said. 

                      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 began playing 
                      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 "Breakout" and 
                      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 rhythm-and-blues. 

                      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 landing." 

                      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. 

Saxophonist Grover Washington Dies
    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 Nero's recordings. 

    ''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.''

    Jazz saxophonist Grover Washington dies 
                         NEW YORK, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Renowned American jazz 
                         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,'' 
                         ``Winelight'' and ``Soulful Strut.'' ``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 Exit'' in 
                         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.'' 



All-Music Guide
 One of the most popular saxophonists of all time (even his off records have impressive sales), 
 Grover Washington, Jr. has long been the pacesetter in his field. His roots are in R&B and soul-jazz 
 organ combos, but he also fares very well on the infrequent occasions when he plays straight-ahead 
 jazz. A highly influential player, Washington has sometimes been blamed for the faults of his 
 followers; Kenny G. largely based his soprano sound on Grover's tone. However, most of the time 
 (except when relying on long hit medleys), Washington pushes himself with the spontaneity and 
 chance-taking of a masterful jazz musician.  

 Grover Washington, Jr., whose father also played saxophone, started playing music when he was ten 
 and within two years was working in clubs. He picked up experience touring with the Four Clefs 
 from 1959-63 and freelancing during the next two years, before spending a couple years in the 
 Army. He moved to Philadelphia in 1967, becoming closely identified with the city ever since, and 
 worked with several organists including Charles Earland and Johnny Hammond Smith, recording as 
 a sideman for the Prestige label. His biggest break occurred in 1971, when Hank Crawford could 
 not make it to a recording date; Washington was picked as his replacement, and the result was 
 Inner City Blues, a big seller. From then on he became a major name, particularly after recording 
 1975's Mister Magic and 1980s Winelight; the latter included the Bill Withers hit "Just the Two of 

 Although some of his recordings since then find him coasting a bit, Washington usually stretches 
 himself in concert, being almost overqualified for the R&B-ish music that he performs. He has 
 developed his own personal voices on soprano, tenor, alto and even his infrequently used baritone. 
 Grover Washington Jr. has recorded as a leader for Kudu, Motown, Elektra and Columbia and has 
 made notable guest appearances on dozens of records ranging from pop to straightforward jazz. -- 
 Scott Yanow, All Music Guide