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Togethering (1985)

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Grover Washington Jr.

In the early '70s, Kenny Burrell met Grover Washington, Jr. in Chicago where they jammed together at the Jazz Showcase, promising someday to get together and make a record. In 1984, well afterWashington's massive commercial disco hit "Mr. Magic," the saxophonist had the inclination to do a straight-ahead jazz record, and reconnected with master guitarist Burrell to do this one-off project. Drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist Ron Carter, and percussionist Ralph MacDonald joined the front men, the entire combo being CTI label refugees, to do this project for Blue Note records. This turned out to be a most satisfying session, with few -- if any -- commercial concessions. Only standards, originals, and Brazilian-tinged tunes are played, with not a hint of rote funk or fusion as these players had produced a decade prior. Togethering is a great title in that many of the melodies are practiced and well rehearsed for Burrell and Washington to play in tandem. They strike an attractive sonic pose on the modern, airy Richard Evans tune "Soulero" that goes earthy and funky, a really good song with fine solos. The quirky and intriguing title track has the principals playing alongside each other, but diving off in angular degrees à la Thelonious MonkCarter's deep soul hues during "Asphalt Canyon Blues" withBurrell's guitar tagging along also makes for interesting, non-standardized listening. There are two Duke Ellington offerings, including Burrell's popping sounds setting off the straight-ahead "What Am I Here For?," while the regretful ballad "Day Dream" has Washington's soprano all wistful and imaginary during this inspired, spatial take. The lone tune on tenor saxophone for Washington is "A Beautiful Friendship," and he assimilates the languid, relaxed tone of his first hero, Sonny Rollins. If any purist mainstream jazz listeners ever had problems with these musicians going for a buck by putting more R&B into their music, all is forgiven with the issuance of this marvelous album, which is more of a showcase for their true colors and collective musicianship beyond their commercialized efforts. Burrell and Washington proved to be a fine pairing -- a subtle, effective jazz partnership.