The Dave Grusin Archive
One of a Kind

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Polydor PD-1-611
MPF  1145
GRP - GRP-A-1011
GRP - GRD 9514


Side One

MODAJI  (7:42)   

Side Two
MONTAGE  (9:20)   
PLAYERA  (8:44)


Grover Washington, Jr.,(soprano saxophone) Ron Carter (acoustic bass), Anthony Jackson (electric bass), Francisco Centeno (electric bass), Steve Gadd (drums), Ralph MacDonald (percussion), Dave Valentin (flute), Don Elliott (mellophone, background vocals), Larry Rosen (triangle)

Arranged & Conducted by Dave Grusin
Produced by Dave Grusin & Larry Rosen

Not just the tasty sounds of the mere five tracks on “One of a Kind,” but its interesting recording history make this album stand out in the Dave Grusin discography.

Originally released on Polydor in August 1977, it represents only the second session in the `modern era' of Dave Grusin headliner recordings (separated by a gap of over a decade from the three LPs he cut during his tenure with Andy Williams), playing exclusively acoustic piano.

Part of a three-record package with Polydor, this was one of Grusin Rosen Productions' early outings as a full-fledged company. But disappointingly, in the marketing hands of Polydor, the album did not generate the sales which one would have expected, considering the strong critical acclaim it had garnered.

Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen were understandably dissatisfied with Polydor's handling of the vehicle. And when Arista Records approached them about forming a label of their own, the company insisted that “One of a Kind” be included in the deal.

Dave Grusin explains, “when we moved to Arista, we had to give them that record as part of the package, which meant that we had to buy it back from Polydor. I knew they weren't really interested in releasing it, although I suppose they would have let us do it.”  (The master recording belonged to Polydor - not Dave Grusin or Grusin Rosen Productions.)

However, plans to release it as one of the first records on their new label never materialized.  The rapid fire signings and success of Arista-GRP stirred up so much momentum, that “One of a Kind” remained `in a back corner of the vault,' for the entire duration of their five years with Arista.

All the while it was attaining the status of a cult recording, sought after by fans around the world.  Even when an independent GRP Records came into being in 1982, it was not the first album released under that new banner, but came out two years later - with a new cover and new liner notes (by Larry Rosen, telling a little of the history behind the album).

At the time, Dave Grusin's celebrated “Night-Lines” was riding high in Billboard's jazz charts, and he had mixed feelings about re-releasing the recording (now bought back for a second time).  Fans were eager to obtain it, but as he pointed out after its independent GRP release in 1984, “the reservation I have is that I wouldn't make that record now. It's fun to listen to, but I hear things on it musically that I would surely do differently now.”  

1977 "One of A Kind"

It wasn't just that “One of a Kind” represented competition for “Night-Lines,” but Dave Grusin looked on the older album as something of a relic, saying, “there's nothing specific that I would change, but the general musical attitude on that album represents another time for me-almost eight years ago.”

In further explanation of his musical approach in the mid-eighties, he stated, “I've come to like things that are more specific. I really try not to clutter things as much as I have in the past.”  Amplifying his attitude toward a `cleaner' sound, he said, “I wasn't trying to clutter then, but I have to watch out for over-producing, over-sweetening, and over-compensating.”

In the long run, the decision to reacquire and release this album on GRP was a significant one.  Even Dave Grusin has agreed, “I'm glad we hung on and fought for it, because it's important for us, considering the size and nature of GRP.” Though their ethos was famously digitally oriented, even in their earliest days, and “One of a Kind” was analog, the pianist believes, “the sonic value is pretty good, so it translated well to a compact disc.”

The content of “One of a Kind” was something Dave Grusin had been mulling over while producing records of a similar genre for other artists.  Upon its original release in 1977 he openly admitted "I like the album. It's some ideas which I've thought about for a long time and wanted to do.” Referring to the difficulty of releasing something which carries one's own byline, he added "'One of a Kind' isn't really different from music I've done before, except perhaps for the fact that I had less perspective on it.” Certainly easier to produce other artists' work with objectivity.

The length of the tracks allow for plenty of exploration of the themes.  The Grusin classic “Modaji” is typical of the studied approach here.  It wends its way in an altogether leisurely and ponderous manner, insinuating its way into one's deeper levels of consciousness. Nearly eight minutes in length, this piece seems to be setting out continuous questions, posed vut never answered.

1977 back cover

For the first time in his then decade-long career in feature films, Dave Grusin recorded one of his movie compositions on a jazz album. “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter” receives exquisite handling which takes the thoughtful piece through a variety of styles.  The fundamental theme, first played in its purest form, light and sweet,  becomes richer, and subtly moves into a gospel version, then returns to simple reflection, and is further given the lush Hollywood treatment before revisiting gospel, this time in glorious style.

In addition to its various presentations on the soundtrack, Dave Grusin has recorded this composition several times (“N.Y./L.A. Dreamband,” “Cinemagic”/”Orchestral Album”), but perhaps never revealing so many of its permutations and possibilities as on "One of a Kind."

A totally different side of Dave Grusin's musical personality is shown with Milton Nascimento's “Cadevento.”  The entire ensemble's entrancement with the sounds of Brazil comes through clearly in this infectious, free-flowing and bouncy tune.

Having set a reflective tone on the first side of the original LP “Side Two” goes into full-blown esoteric mood with the Dave Grusin composition “Montage,” followed  by his arrangement of  Enrique Granados' “Playera.”  One can look at the two tracks perhaps as a continuum of a related narrative.

The beginning of the story, in three movements, tells its own tale with the composer playing a variety of instruments, both acoustic and electronic.  One could even think of this as a jazz version of “Ulysses,” relating a voyage or experience.  Despite its length of over nine minutes, it never fails to fascinate or hold the attention as the metaphorical passage progresses through its ups and downs - through light and shadow - reaching nether worlds and strange vistas before returning undaunted, in a happily jaunty manner to the main path.  The eternal optimist has triumphed.

The Spanish “Playera”  has been adapted by Dave Grusin into an intense, brooding, even aching experience.  This haunting track is the quintessential Dave Grusin `think piece' - at times an emotional experience, but at every moment a journey of the mind.  This is not just a companion piece to “Montage,” but a natural extension of it, both tracks going through a variety of moods, and taking one to a level of uncertainty before returning to `normal ground' with the reoccurrence of the familiar (and almost comforting) main themes.

Recorded & Mixed by Larry Rosen

at Electric Lady Studios, New York
Release Date: May 2, 1984
Original Release Date: 1977


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