WITH A NAME like "Strawberry Moon," you'd expect saxophonist Grover Washington Jr.'s latest album to radiate a little night music. It does. In fact, more than a little.
On this, his 19th album, Washington warms to the mood quickly with a little help from his friends, including Marcus Miller, B. B. King, Jean Carne and James Lloyd, the pianist from Pieces of a Dream. Miller, who seems to be everywhere at once these days, playing everything, is responsible for the soft-focus funk on "Summer Nights," with its rippling bass lines and rustling percussion. It's a familiar and fitting backdrop for Washington's soprano sax -- somber, then airy, gliding easily over and through the rhythms.
King's robust reading of "Caught a Touch of Your Love" turns out to be a refreshing change of pace from the moody crooning that surfaces elsewhere on this decidedly pop-jazz album. And even a fine singer like Carne can't make "The Look of Love" worth hearing again. But as "Maddie's Blues" and other tunes prove, Washington not only knows what a little moonlight can do, he knows how to conjure it. --
GROVER WASHINGTON JR. --
"Strawberry Moon" (Columbia FC 40510). Appearing through Sunday at Blues Alley.