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Saturday, 18 December, 1999, 08:16 GMT
Saxophonist Grover Washington Jr dies

washington Grover Washington Jr: One of the first on the jazz-funk scene

Jazz saxophonist Grover Washington Jr has collapsed and died in New York after recording a television performance.

Mr Washington, who was 56, was taken ill on Friday evening after recording a performance for The Saturday Early Show on the US network CBS.

He was pronounced dead at St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, officials said.

Grover Washington Jr was one of the first musicians to enter the jazz-funk scene, a musical style that fused jazz and soul music.

washington Washington described his work as short stories without words
His career highlights included playing at President Clinton's 50th birthday celebration at Radio City Music Hall in 1996.

He also played in a jazz and blues jam with the president and jazz greats including Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis in 1993 after a White House concert celebrating jazz.

When describing his own style, Washington described his work as being short stories without words, impressions turned into sound.

"There's a record player playing in here all the time," he said, pointing to his head, in a 1989 interview.

"I'm listening to everything. The screech of brakes. Three or four people walking and you can hear their heels clicking. Railroad tracks."


Born in Buffalo, New York, Washington was introduced to music by his saxophone-playing father. He joined his first band - The Four Clefs - as a teenager in 1959.

In the early 1960s, he moved to Philadelphia. He honed his rapid-growing abilities, playing in clubs until being discovered by organist Charles Earland, who put the young Washington on one of his albums.

Washington's career took off in 1970 when he was featured on Johnny "Hammond" Smith's Breakout.

Producer Creed Taylor signed Washington in 1971, who soon after released his debut album, Inner City Blues.

After signing with Elektra, he put out his most successful piece, Winelight, which made it to number five in the US record charts.

It is best known for the song Just The Two Of Us, featuring Bill Withers on vocals.

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See also:
09 Dec 99 |  UK
Jazz great Baker dies
02 Jan 99 |  Entertainment
British jazz gets the blues

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