Grover Washington, Jr.: Breath of Heaven –     A Holiday Collection

The Songs:

  1. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  2. Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)
  3. The Love in His Infant Eyes
  4. Away in a Manger
  5. I Wonder as I Wander
  6. Christmas Time Is Here
  7. The Magi’s Song/A Child Is Born
  8. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
  9. The Christmas Song
  10. The Christmas Waltz
  11. Christmas Day Chant
  12. Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song, Instrumental Version)

Personnel:

  • Grover Washington, Jr. – soprano, alto, & tenor saxophones
  • Billy Childs, Adam Holzman, Donald Robinson – keyboards
  • Hiram Bullock, Richard Steacker – guitars
  • Will Lee, Gerald Veasley – bass
  • Victor Lewis, Steve Wolf – drums
  • Pablo Batista, Bashiri Johnson – percussion
  • Joe Locke – marimba, vibes, chimes
  • Dawn Andrews – cello, vocals
  • Lisa Fischer – vocals

Breath of Heaven was recorded and released in 1997, just two years prior to Grover Washington, Jr.’s untimely death from a heart attack. It was one of his last recordings and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1998. It features some fine arrangements by Billy Childs and the late Hiram Bullock, as well as the soulful, smooth sounds of the leader on saxophone. Washington chose a mostly subdued set of songs focused on the sacred aspects of Christmas, rather than the commercial, secular songs that fill the airwaves and shopping malls this time of year, which make it for a mellow, but satisfying listening or worship experience. Included are the infrequently heard Christmas Waltz by Cahn & Styne, Mel Tormé’s classic Christmas Song, and the beautiful Thad Jones ballad, A Child is Born, as well as Vince Guaraldi’s beloved Christmas Time is Here, from the Peanuts Christmas television special. The title track, a modern classic by Amy Grant, appears twice; first with vocals by R&B singer Lisa Fischer, and then reprised at the end of the album in an instrumental version featuring Grover on soprano saxophone. If you’re looking for a break from the hectic pace of holiday shopping, settle back with a cup of cocoa and relax to this one. (Buy it here.)

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