GROVER WASHINGTON JR. is a zealous fan of the Philadelphia '76ers, but the title of his new album, "Inside Moves," is more than just a basketball metaphor. Indoor sports of a more senuous kind seem to have inspired this, Washington's 16th album.
Of course, the saxophonist isn't entirely responsible for the romantic mood that characterizes much of this album. Jon Lucien's boudoir baritone warms the love ballads "Watching You, Watching Me" and "When I Look at You," which were co-written by percussionist Ralph McDonald. Like the McDonald ballads recorded by Roberta Flack, the music here is pillow soft, the lyrics sweet seduction. Elsewhere, Washington's lyrical sax weaves its way through arrangements colored by hushed background harmonies, mood-enhancing electronics and light percussion. In short, a little night music, nicely crafted.
The album opens and closes, however, on more of an upbeat note. The title track, though burdened by achingly redundant handclap percussion, is typical of Washington's penchant for tuneful, breezy pop-jazz instrumentals. The finale, "Sassy Stew," was originally recorded by Ramsey Lewis, and still bears the sort of light funky flavor that has become that pianist's stock in trade. Only here, Washington manages to breath a little more soul and vitality into the mix.
GROVER WASHINGTON JR. -- "Inside Moves" (Elektra 960318-1); appearing Saturday with Pieces of a Dream at Constitution Hall.