JAZZ REVIEW : Washington Disappoints With a Commercial Show


Like JVC concerts of previous years, the Sunday show at the Hollywood Bowl was just an evening of commercial music.

The headliner was Grover Washington Jr., who’s such an accomplished saxophonist that his failure to live up to his potential is especially regrettable.

Supported by a group that was heavy on percussion and keyboards, he was again disappointing, playing soprano, alto and tenor saxophones in nowhere near peak form.

His version of Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” came off well for a while, but soon deteriorated into a drums-and-comedy routine. However, a lullaby written by Washington did have its moments. But, for the most part, partly due to an excess of extraneous effects--like clap-alongs and drum explosions--the set had little musical value.


Electric keyboard player Keiko Matsui, who opened the evening with a set that had no real high points, was often subservient to soprano saxophonist Mike Acosta’s shrill sound.

Greg Walker, known for his work with Santana, was brought on for a guest vocal, and Matsui’s husband Kazzbu, joined her for a hollow, sonorous solo on the shakuhachi flute.

Next came a barely passable set by Fourplay, a mildly satisfying unit consisting of one first-rate soloist, Lee Ritenour on guitar, along with pianist Bob James, bassist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason, who composed some of the material. Brenda Russell, a capable singer, did her best with “Between the Sheets,” the somewhat uninspired title tune of the group’s current album.