Grover Washington Jr: Winelight
Warner Music // DVD Audio // $17.98 // September 23, 2002
Review by Buzz Burgess | posted April 3, 2003
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Graphical Version

PLEASE NOTE: This is a DVD-Audio disc which is playable on most DVD players as well as all DVD-Audio players. A DVD-Audio player will make all sound options on this disc available for listening.

 

A Look at DVD-Audio
Great sonics, six-channel capability, and added features to your favorite music albums.

First, there were albums on vinyl, then we had CDs, and now there's something called DVD-Audio. What's the difference? A lot! DVD-A is the latest way to hear multichannel, audiophile-quality albums in your home, using your DVD or DVD-Audio player. A DVD-A can hold up to seven times the data of a normal CD, which results in added features and better sound. Also, with its sampling rate higher than that of average CDs (up to 192 kHz, whereas most CDs get 44.1 kHz), you may hear a lot of details in music on a DVD-A that you'd never discover on an average CD. And, since nearly all DVD-As are engineered for multichannel/surround-sound listening (using five or six speakers), with the right equipment, you'll be able to hear your favorite music in breathtaking surround sound.

Equipment Needed
First off, DVD-Audios will not play on normal CD players. You'll need a DVD-Audio player in order to fully capture the capabilities of these discs. A receiver with 5.1 analog inputs and five speakers (left, center, right, left surround, right surround, and a subwoofer) should also be used to capture the surround-sound capabilities of DVD-As. While pure DVD-As will not play on standard DVD players, most releases (including all the titles produced by Warner, Atlantic, and Elektra) contain a Dolby Digital surround-sound mix, making them playable on any DVD player. Though these discs are primarily audio-only, you'll be best off using them in conjunction with your TV, so you can watch the additional onscreen features (see below) and navigate the menus with ease. It's all a little complicated, but music-loving home theater enthusiasts won't be disappointed!

Improved Sound
Thanks to a higher sampling rate than that of both standard DVDs and CDs, DVD-As have an incredibly detailed sound. And, when played through a proper home-theater setup with five or six channels (speakers), you'll get to hear your favorite music in a whole new light--in surround sound. Depending on the remastering, the effect of surround sound on your favorite album can be subtle or dramatic, but generally speaking, every DVD-Audio sounds better than its standard CD counterpart.

Additional Onscreen Features
The added onscreen features available on DVD-Audios vary from title to title. DVD-As often have extra unreleased tracks, photo slide shows of the artist performing, song lyrics, music videos, and interviews. But don't expect to get footage of a full concert or videos for every track; DVD-As devote the bulk of their space to high-quality audio-only music.

 

The DVD
Grover Washington Jr. - "Winelight"
Advanced Resolution Six-Channel Surround Sound - DVD Audio Players.
Advanced Resolution Stereo (96kHz) - DVD Audio Players.
Dolby Digital & DTS 5.1 Surround Sound - DVD Video Players.

Soul is the message, Saxophone is the medium, and Grover Washington, Jr. is the undisputed master. Smooth and relaxing is his special sound.

As a brilliant instrumentalist, composer and producer, Grover Washington, Jr. has been nourishing our souls for a quarter-century. He has been one of the most loved saxophonists in the jazz and rhythm-and-blues genre of popular music, since making a first impression in 1971 with his rendition of Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues".

Grover grew up in Buffalo, New York and learned to appreciate music at the age of 10 when his father, an amateur saxophonist, bought him one. He eagerly took to the instrument and would sneak into clubs to watch artists like Jack McDuff, Harold Vick and Charles Lloyd perform. Rhythm and Blues was his fare and he turned professional at age 12, eventually hooking up with the Four Clefs from 1959-63 playing the Midwest. After a stint in the Army, he worked freelance in New York and Philadelphia and was married in 1968.

His big break came in 1970, when Hank Crawford couldn't make a session and Grover was asked to replace him. The result was "Inner City Blues", released in 1971. He continued to shape his soulful sound through the 1970s and released three successful albums, "All The Kings Horses", "Soul Box" and "Mister Magic". This gave him the opportunity to sit in on sessions with Bob James and Dave Grusin.

His artistic and commercial high point came in 1980, when he released "Winelight". The LP earned two Grammy Awards, for Best Jazz Fusion Recording and Best R&B Song for "Just the Two of Us". The album showcased his mastery of tone, range and dexterity that combined the best elements of pop, soul and jazz and transform them into a form uniquely his. "Winelight" has been certified platinum, and to date has sold over two million copies.

Continuing to work and extend himself in concert, he developed his own personal voices on soprano, tenor, alto, and even his infrequently-used baritone. He died of a sudden heart attack on December 17, 1999 while taping an appearance on CBS television's "The Saturday Early Show". He was 56. His album, "Aria", was issued posthumously, early the following year and brought him full circle providing his audience with his rendition of classical pieces of music he always wanted to perform.

 

The Sound
"Winelight" is composed of five instrumental tracks and are joined with the smash hit "Just the Two of Us," sung by Bill Withers.

1. Winelight
2. Let It Flow (For Dr. J.)
3. In the Name of Love
4. Take Me There
5. Just the Two of Us
6. Make Me a Memory (Sad Samba)

I purchased this album back in 1980 on vinyl and again purchased it when it came out on CD. The soulfull sounds of that saxophone have always been with and impressed me since I first started listening to Grover in the early 1970's.

On this DVD-A release, the surround mix is exemplary, fully immersive, enveloping with smooth transitions from front to rear speakers with a clarity of individual instruments that is truely hypnotic. Amazing sound quality.

The "Winelight" DVD-Audio was mixed from original multitrack tapes by Grammy-winning engineer Elliot Scheiner, and produced by Ralph MacDonald, co-producer of the original album. It includes new liner notes by respected soul and jazz music writer David Nathan, a photo gallery featuring many previously unpublished images -- and some of the smoothest grooves ever committed to tape.

This DVD-Audio release has been mixed from the original multitrack master tapes to create the best, most dynamic sound possible. Complete with stereo and surround sound mixes (both standard and audiophile advanced resolution quality), along with bonus text and still imagery content, this disc is playable in any DVD player. However, in order to access the audiophile quality advanced resolution mixes, your DVD player must be DVD-Audio compatible. Interactive menus will guide you through the songs and, when available, additional audio or visual content, though it is not necessary to view the menus on the screen in order to enjoy the music.

 

The Menu
Playlist / Sound Select

Photo Gallery
13 color stills

Lyrics
"Just the Two of Us"

Credits
Grover Washington, Jr. on soprano, alto and tenor sax; Eric Gale on guitar; Paul Griffin on Clavinet; Richard Tee on Fender Rhodes; Bill Eaton on Oberheim synthesizer; and Ed Walsh on Oberheim 8-voice synthesizer.

 

Summary
The varied arrangements and exotic instrumental contributions help make "Winelight" a consistently fascinating album. There is clavinet, steel drums, drum synth, Fender Rhodes, and two Oberheim synthesizers at various times behind Washington's soprano, alto and tenor saxes.

Grover is justifiably considered one of the best among contemporary jazz saxmen. His influence can be heard in everyone from Kenny G, Gerald Albright, Dave Koz, Boney James, and Najee to David Sanborn, Walter Beasley, Everette Harp, Alfonzo Blackwell, and the late George Howard. Most of these artists will readily admit that his '70's albums had a profound effect on their own burgeoning skills. And yet, unquestionably the pioneer, Grover Washington Jr., passed away in December 1999, a week after his 56th birthday, without ever being fully acknowledged for his undeniable contributions to the world of music.

"Winelight" may be Grover Washington, Jr.'s best album ever. A beautiful, soulful production that is certainly worthy of a spot in ones Jazz and R&B collection.



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