Grover Washington Jr. – 1975 – Mister Magic
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Is it Smooth Jazz or Soul Jazz? Truth is, it’s both.
This is an album that you’d not want to miss. If you managed to get a hand on it, just snatch it quickly and put it on your shopping cart. It’s like a wine that you only sip on Friday evenings, or when you need to relax. Just kick back, try to free your mind, and let those groove-masters, whose names are Grover Washington Jr., Bob James, Harvey Mason and Eric Gale give you a musical massage. When you’re done, start searching for “Feels So Good”, which has a similiar flavor to this one, and is a Motown product.
A1 Earth Tone 12:26
A2 Passion Flower 5:33
B1 Mister Magic 9:02
B2 Black Frost 6:05
The hit and the most obvious reason to purchase this record is the title song, one of the few true Jazz-Funk classics. I don’t know how many dozens of times we’ve danced to this one. And even today: just put this song on, turn up your hi-fi and see what happens. A sure winner.
The band is a hit, too: Harvey Mason, Gary King, Eric Gale, Bob James (who’s also in charge of the production). The album opens with a jazzy Bob James composition, Earth Tones, which features a quite complex, syncopated 6/4 beat where Grover Washington and Eric Gale (check his wah wah solo!) get plenty of space to improvise; Grover delivering some of his freest and jazziest soprano solos of his career – obviously, he’d studied his Coltrane – before he grabs his tenor, where he’s slightly more conventional. Passion Flower is a dreamy ballad orchestrated by a string section (courtesy B. James). It’s a Billy Strayhorn composition transposed into the mid-seventies, featuring Washington on his soprano sax. A gem.
Black Frost is the least interesting track of the four. It tries to repeat what we’ve already heard in the title song, and much better there.
Overall, Mister Magic is a magic moment in the Grover Washington, Jr. discography that has stood the test of time.
Pure dark magic from Grover Washington – a record that was a megahit back in the 70s, but which still sounds amazing many decades later! There’s a sound here that’s completely sublime – and the album is to Grover’s career what the first 2 CTI sets by Bob James were to his – a stretched-out, masterpiece of sublime jazzy energy – served up with a really spacious sound overall!
Grover’s sharp-edged sax is at the lead of the set – but the album’s also awash in electric piano work from Bob James – and backings that are as lean, clean, and soulful as the best on CTI from the time. Titles include the killer “Black Frost” – a track that we never tire of – plus the hit “Mister Magic“, and the cuts “Earth Tones” and “Passion Flower“.
This is one of Grover Washington, Jr.’s best-loved recordings and considered a classic of r&bish jazz. All four songs (which includes Billy Strayhorn’s “Passion Flower“) are quite enjoyable but it is “Mister Magic” that really caught on as a major hit. Bob James provided the colorful if somewhat commercial arrangements, there are spots for guitarist Eric Gale, and Washington (mostly on tenor and soprano) is heard in particularly creative form.