Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Changing `Tapestry' Grover Washington Tries to Keep Growing

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Changing `Tapestry' Grover Washington Tries to Keep Growing

Article excerpt

Grover Washington Jr.

Where: Westport Playhouse, West Port Plaza, I-270 and Page Boulevard

When: 7:30 and 10 tonight

How much: $22.50

More info: 291-7600

LAST SUMMER, Earth, Wind and Fire founder Maurice White convened an instrumental R&B summit session. He enlisted soprano saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. to join pianist Ramsey Lewis, bassist Victor Bailey and percussionist Omar Hakim in the recording studio.

The result: a disc whose title, "Urban Knights," may alludes to the Crusaders' 1976 instrumental R&B classic "Those Southern Knights."

For Washington, the quartet reprised sounds with which he's long been associated: driving, uptempo dance tunes as well as satiny nocturnes in the vein of his 1975 Grammy winner "Just the Two of Us."

Lately, the saxophonist has also been involved in some recording sessions that are decidedly less characteristic.

One of them is a new recording by the world-renowned operatic soprano Kathleen Battle, titled "So Many Stars." Battle and her music director and mentor, Robert Sadin, sought out Washington and fellow jazz stars Cyrus Chestnut and Christian McBride to play key roles.

The music ranges from traditional American spirituals to the swaying Brazilian groove of Sergio Mendes to the soprano's own vocal adaptation of a sequence from Dvorak's "New World Symphony." The instrumental work by Washington and company mingles with each of these musical worlds.

In a recent interview, the soprano saxophonist explained why he admires Kathleen Battle, and how he was convinced to make a foray onto her musical terrain.

"She considers herself a work-in-progress, much the same as I do," Washington said of Battle. "She tries to do the same things I do - she tries to move along and to learn.

"We have done a couple of concerts, together recently," he added. "She will do something classical - something by Haydn, for instance - in the first part of the program. …

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