Grover Washington Jr.

Grover Washington Jr. (Dec. 12, 1943 — Dec. 17, 1999) was an American jazz-funk and soul-jazz saxophonist who released 10 albums on Kudo between 1971 and 1977, followed by multiple titles on Motown, Elektra, and Columbia during the next two decades.

Washington was born on December 12, 1943, to a musical family in Buffalo, New York. His mother sang in church choir and his father, an avid collector of jazz records, played saxophone. Grover grew up listening to big band jazz and got his first saxophone at age eight. He had two younger brothers who also played instruments: Daryl (drums) and Michael (organ).

In the late 1950s, Washington and fellow Buffalo native Lonnie Smith (b. 1942) formed a vocal combo, The Teen Kings. Washington later moved to the Midwest, where he played in a sequence of acts (The Four Clefs, The Mark III Trio) and eventually got drafted into the US Army. While enlisted, he met Billy Cobham, a well-connected drummer who linked Washington up with musicians on the New York City scene.

In 1971, Washington played on seven releases on the Prestige label, including soul-jazz titles by Charles Earland (Living Black!), Melvin Sparks (Spark Plug), Johnny “Hammond” Smith (What’s Going On), and two apiece by Leon Spencer (Sneak Preview!, Louisiana Slim) and Boogaloo Joe Jones (What It Is, No Way!).

Also that year, he played backup on two Kudo releases: “Hammond” Smith’s debut as Johnny Hammond (Breakout) and the sixth album by old friend Lonnie Smith (Mama Wailer). In September 1971, Kudo boss Creed Taylor had time booked at Van Gelder Studios for saxophonist Hank Crawford. When he failed to show, Washington filled the allotted time with a session that generated his first album, Inner City Blues.


  • Inner City Blues (1971)
  • All the King’s Horses (1972)
  • Soul Box (1973)
  • Mister Magic (1975)
  • Feels So Good (1975)
  • A Secret Place (1976)
  • Live at the Bijou (1977)
  • Reed Seed (1978)
  • Paradise (1979)
  • Skylarkin’ (1980)
  • Winelight (1980)
  • Come Morning (1981)
  • The Best Is Yet to Come (1982)
  • Inside Moves (1984)
  • Togethering (1984 • Kenny Burrell & Grover Washington, Jr.)
  • A House Full of Love: Music From The Cosby Show (TV, 1986 • Stu Gardner Featuring Grover Washington, Jr.)
  • Strawberry Moon (1987)
  • Then and Now (1988)
  • Time Out of Mind (1989)


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