Wax Wednesday #8: “Winelight” by Grover Washington Jr.

What is Wax Wednesday? Who are you? Are these published on Wednesday because it rhymes? All that and more here: https://kjhk.org/web/2017/03/01/wax-wednesday-1-turnstiles/

Wow, that was quite a long break between articles! Between school, work and other non-KJHK related happenings, I almost forgot this little passion project of mine was still waiting in the wings of our website. But summer is a wonderful time with not much to do, and now that I’ve become the Content Director and overseer of this website with more time on my hands, who’s to stop me from starting Wax Wednesday again? So let’s roll up our  sleeves, dust off our favorite records, and get digging in the dollar bin once more for some stone cold underrated classics.

Today’s record: “Winelight” by Grover Washington Jr.

I believe that a cover can say a lot about an album. What genre it may or may not be, a visual representation of the themes of the record, or maybe even just a piece of art the artist felt they wanted to create or show. I believe the art for “Winelight” encompasses all of these, immediately grabbing my attention from the dollar bin stacks. One look at that soft lighting paired perfectly with a glass of white wine and a saxophone, and you know you’re in for some self care and smooth grooves, courtesy of one Mr. Washington.

The album lives up to the tall order the cover art hypes up and then some. Kicking things off with the title track (something I don’t really see that often, especially in modern records), Washington Jr. immediately sets the tone; low, slow and funky. Perfectly timed percussion and electric bass that bridge the line between Jazz, Lounge and Funk give way to wonderful saxophone melodies and funky breakdowns that keep things interesting from a sonic perspective , yet still light enough that you can easily see it as the perfect soundtrack a candlelit bath or a romantic dinner with, of course, wine.

This trend continues as the tracks come and go, with “Let it Flow [for Dr. J]” having a disco inspired bass line and “In the Name of Love” probably being the sexiest sounding song that could also double as copyright free public television music, and I do mean that in the best way possible. “Take me There” might be the most underwhelming track for me, but the build up to the most fusion and funk influenced portion of the whole record is still worth more than a few listens, as the instruments really get a chance to do some cool solos and rhythms.

Up until this point, the album has been a purely instrumental, “vocalists need not apply” affair. This changes with “Just the Two of Us” recruiting legendary soul singer Bill Withers to sing some now legendary lyrics now featured in commercials and etched into the pop culture lexicon. This is hands down my favorite song on the whole record, from the wonderfully vintage synth parts to that mind blowing steel drum part at around the 2:25 mark, the song is 7 minutes and 24 seconds of pure bliss that demands your attention and dance moves. If you listen to no other song on the record, at least check out “Just the Two of Us”, it won a Grammy for a reason.

The album closes on a softer note with “Make me a Memory”,  a nice little guitar cut featuring some pretty nice percussion and an infectious hook that I’ve never really been able to get out of my head. Really, that seems to be the case with the whole record. Every song is so assured in what it is, what it wants to be and the steps it has to take to be that way. Maybe this comes from it’s only 6 song track list, or maybe it comes from the talent of the musicians that Washington recruits to help him craft a Jazz masterpiece. I’d like to think it’s a bit of both, but whatever the case I highly recommend digging for this one in your local record store or queuing it up on Spotify or Apple Music when you’re in need of of some feel good jams or just want to dance.