Grover Washington, Jr. began playing professionally at age 12, just two years after receiving his first saxophone. Performing in clubs in his native Buffalo, NY., Washington would play mainly R&B and blues. After touring briefly with a band known as The Four Clefs, Washington was drafted into the United States Army, where he played in an Army band with legendary drummer Billy Cobham.
After leaving the Army, Grover Washington, Jr. found work as a session musician for the Prestige label, playing on recordings such as Johnny Hammond’s Breakout. After a Prestige artist, Hank Crawford, failed to make a recording session, Grover was picked as his replacement, resulting in Washington’s 1971 debut, Inner City Blues. Washington continued to hone his sound during the 1970’s, releasing well-received albums such as 1974’s Mister Magic.
It was in 1980, however, on Elektra Records, that Washington released a monster of an album, Winelight. With an all-star cast, including heavyweights such as Marcus Miller (bass,) Ralph MacDonald (percussion,) Eric Gale (guitar,) and Steve Gadd (drums,) Winelight is smooth, seductive, polished, R&B-influenced Jazz. The result of the album made Washington a star, earning him two GRAMMY awards, Best Jazz Fusion Recording and Best R&B Song for Just the Two of Us.