Über Grover Washington, Jr.
Despite what many people say, Grover Washington, Jr. can never be accused of the assaults on musical dignity that have taken place since the arrival of Kenny G. Though Washington helped lead the crossover sax sounds dominating Smooth Jazz radio, he's also got enough chops and soul to stand up next to the best Bop and Soul Jazz players. Washington's tenor and soprano sax (among other instruments) headed up many excellent jazz tracks in the 1970s, working with keyboardist Bob James' light, funky arrangements and guitarist Eric Gale's slick lines; the work posed a yin to the harder yang promoted by many Fusion artists of the day. The classic album Mister Magic features a bearded Washington rocketing from a pool, emerging like the lofty lines he blew, covered in a lush coating of keyboard and strings. "Just the Two of Us" with Bill Withers solidified his status as a major star -- and recently brought Washington back to attention with a series of sampled remakes. In Philadelphia he's bigger than Ben Franklin, and his soaring notes have been missed since his death in 1999.