Dave Grusin - "Masterful"
If you ask him, Dave Grusin will probably tell you: he is just a two-bit piano player, with a shrug and a soft laugh and barely look you in the eye.
Born in Littleton, Colorado he started taking piano lessons at age four. His father, Henri Grusin, was a professional violinist, and his mother, Rosabelle, was a classically trained pianist.
After graduating college with a degree in music, he served in the U.S. Navy. Mr. Grusin later ventured into songwriting and arranging. Over a 50-year career he has won an Oscar, ten Grammy's, and numerous other awards and honorary degrees.
As a composer he wrote the gospel-styled theme song to "Good Times", the 1970's African-American hit comedy television series.
He also composed the music for; "The Graduate" starring Dustin Hoffman, and "Tootsie" (It Might Be You), both nominated for Academy Awards.
As a producer he founded GRP Records with Larry Rosen, who was once his drummer.
Grusin & Rosen Productions was a pioneer in the "smooth-jazz" genre, and they released the first digitally recorded Jazz records ever made, and the first ever Jazz music available on a Compact disc.
Their music became a staple in the new "cool-jazz" radio format on stations such as CD-101.9 in New York and 94.7 "The Wave" in Los Angeles.
GRP went on to create, produce and release albums by young jazz artists like; Angela Bofill, Tom Browne, and Dave Valentin, and veterans like; Jon Lucien, Noel Pointer, Earl Klugh, and Patti Austin.
Grusin & Rosen also worked with Spyro Gyra, Tom Scott, Larry Carlton, and Michael Brecker, veritably dominating the "Contemporary-Jazz" genre, and radio airplay, for more than a decade with the "GRP Sound".
MCA Music Entertainment a subdivision of Universal Music Group, bought the GRP label in February 1990 for approximately $40 million dollars.
Mr. Grusin took that little bit of chump change and put it in the bank. Then he went online.
He became an entrepreneur. He created an online music company called; N2K Encoded Music.
The website hosted online communities for various music genres. They were also the pioneers of online music shopping through their "Music-Boulevard.com" website.
Their company was the first to distribute music via digital downloads (later called MP3's), and led the way for music retailing into the 21st Century.
The late Mr. Larry Rosen, Grusin's close friend and long-time business partner conceived a plan to merge their parent company N2K Inc. with CDNow Inc. At the time they were the two top music e-commerce companies.
Grusin & Rosen completed the merger in March of 1999 when the combined entity was valued at over $500 million dollars.
And yet to many music fans Dave Grusin is not a household name. Sure, jazz fans are familiar with Lucien's; "Dindi", Bofill's; "I Try", and Browne's; "Jamaica Funk", and we all have heard; "temporary lay-offs, good times, ain't we lucky we got 'em, (gospel choir hums soulfully) good times".
But who knew legendary pop-songwriter Stephen Bishop's best song is the one he didn't even write; "somethin's tellin' me it might be you / all of my life / maybe it's true / baby it's you / I've been waiting for, all of my life."
How many of us are aware that there is only one single common denominator behind all those records; Dave Grusin.
Dave Grusin wrote: "Good Times", "Theme from Tootsie" ("It's You"), and arranged and produced "Funkin' for Jamaica", "I Try", "Dindi", and all those other records as well.
So I'd like to take this opportunity to share my favorite Dave Grusin piece with you now.
It's called "Nightwind". It is an instrumental piece which Mr. Grusin composed, arranged, and produced for Jazz trumpeter Tom Browne.
I find "Nightwind" to be tenderly picturesque, sensual and passionate, and meticulous in it's conception and performance.
There is tremendous focus and care given to the interplay of each instrument. Please pay particular attention to the instrumental exchanges taking place among the players. The performers pay close attention to hearing each other clearly, and they respond sensitively to one another throughout the arrangement.
The recording and engineering is provided by Grusin's long-time business partner, the drummer-turned-sound engineer Larry Rosen, and Larry's mix is both picturesque and immaculate.
In many ways when I found this piece of music, all of Mr. Grusin's stellar accomplishments (of which I was vaguely familiar with prior to finding this song) made total sense to me.
"Nightwind" is genuinely masterful in every way. I could understand everything deeply, and on a visceral level simply by listening to this song. I listened over and over and over again.
When the song concluded after my first time hearing it, I knew why this man had been so vastly accomplished in every one of his ventures and endeavors, all throughout his life.
Please enjoy this delicate waltz and partake in all of it's sublime beauty.
Note the interplay between the musicians, and the way the strings, the bass guitar, the rhythm guitar, and the percussion underscore, embellish, and augment the motif. In addition, there are lovely solos by Mr. Grusin and Mr. Browne.
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