Grover left Buffalo to play in the Midwest with a group called the Four Clefs. Soon afterward, he was drafted into the Army; during that time he made some important connections. Drummer Billie Cobham, who was in the Army band with Grover, introduced him to several prominent New York musicians, and he soon began freelancing in New York and Philadelphia. Grover also met his wife Christine (who has since acted as his business partner as well) in Philadelphia around that time; they married shortly after his discharge in 1967. The two have remained happily married since; their son, Grover III (who co-produced a Grammy-nominated song on Grover's last album) now lives in Los Angeles and their daughter, Shana attends Temple University.
After playing in organist Charles Earland's band, and recording as a sideman for the CTI and Prestige labels, Grover recorded Breakout with Johnny Hammond. The album was a bestseller, and it established Grover as a major new voice on saxophone.
So impressed was Creed Taylor, Hammond's producer and head of CTI, that he signed Grover to a contract as a leader. When his debut as a leader, Inner City Blues was released in 1971, Grover was still working at a Philadelphia record wholesaler, "I was unloading boxes of records with my own name on them," Grover recalls with a hint of irony.
Grover's soulful, sophisticated sound developed through the 1970s and the success of his next three albums--All the King's Horses, Soul Box and especially Mister Magic--landed him as a headliner in the concert halls, and opened the door to session work with the likes of Bob James, Randy Weston, Eric Gale, and Dave Grusin.
With the release of Winelight in 1980, Grover earned recognition as a leading instrumental master. The LP earned two Grammy Awards, for "Best Jazz Fusion Recording" and "Best R&B Song" for "Just the Two of Us." Down Beat Magazine crooned, "Washington plays with exquisite tone, range and dexterity, grooving always." The Boston Herald-American proclaimed the album, "A true masterpiece by an artist who has the ability to combine the better elements of pop, soul and jazz and transform them into a form uniquely his." Perhaps the greatest recognition came through record distributors, much like the one Grover had once worked in. Winelight was certified gold in 1981; to date, it has sold over two million copies.
Grover's subsequent albums extended his reputation even further. Come Morning (1981) featured Ralph MacDonald, Steve Gadd, Eric Gale, Richard Tee, Marcus Miller, and vocals by Grady Tate; it earned Grover his fourth Gold recording. The Best is Yet to Come (1982) earned a Grammy nomination for vocalist Patti Labelle on the title track. Inside Moves (1984) featured vocals from Jon Lucien. For Strawberry Moon (1987), Grover was joined by legendary blues guitarists B.B. King, as well as by jazz/r&b vocalist Jean Carne. For Then and Now (1988), Grover explored the many facets of his musical expression, aided by jazz starts Tommy Flanagan, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Marvin "Smitty" Smith. On Time Out of Mind (1990), Grover scored another hit with vocalist Phyllis Hyman with 'Sacred kind of Love.' And on Next Exit (1992), Grover explored several musical avenues, reinventing a classic Paul Desmond tune, "Take Five," as his own "Take Another Five," teaming up with The Four Tops and Lalah Hathaway, even dipping into rap.
In the early eighties, Grover played a major role in establishing the Philadelphia group Pieces of a Dream, for whom he produced three albums. These successes, and many, many more awards and credits as producer, player and composer, over two decades have today made Grover Washington, Jr. a key player in modern jazz and a familiar face on our cultural horizon. With just the mention of his first name or a note from his saxophone, audiences worldwide respond.
Grover's saxophone can be heard playing the national anthem at a Philadelphia 76'ers' game (revealing his lifelong passion for basketball); performing at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia for July 4th (with one million listeners in attendance) or at the Blue Note jazz club in New York (playing to sold-out rooms). His musical prominence recently took him to the White House for President Clinton's Inauguration (where he first met--and impressed Hank Jones).
Reflecting on all that, Grover says, "I'm thankful for the people who inspired me over the years: Dexter Gordon, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Stanley Turrentine, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, Oliver Nelson. I would like to believe that some of the reason I've been around so long is that I don't do the same thing over and over--I like to grow, to keep adding another thread to my musical tapestry," he adds. "I'm just staying true to the things that got me to play in the first place."
All My Tomorrows is true to the inspirations in its lyrical approach, its respect for a classic song, and its depth of expression. It is an intimate, personal work worth returning to again and again. Perhaps producer Todd Barkan puts it best, with a quote he and Grover heard many times from Dexter Gordon on the bandstand: "Ladies and gentlemen, I hope we give you something to put under your pillows."