STLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Six Favorites from the Jazz Crusaders


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Today, let's check out some clips of the Jazz Crusaders, who will be in St. Louis next Saturday, June 11 to play a concert at the Touhill Performing Arts Center under the auspices of Jazz St. Louis.

The four original Crusaders - pianist Joe Sample, saxophonist Wilton Felder, trombonist Wayne Henderson and drummer Nesbert “Stix" Hooper - first met in the late 1950s playing in various bands in their home town of Houston. Moving to Los Angeles in 1960, they adopted the name Jazz Crusaders, and gained national attention for a series of releases on the Pacific Jazz label.

The first two videos show that original lineup, augmented by a bassist (possibly Jimmy Bond, who played on the record), performing two of their best-known tunes from those early Pacific Jazz recordings. The versions of “Freedom Sound" up above and “The Young Rabbits" down below both were recorded in 1962 in LA for a local television program called Frankly Jazz, and both are fine examples of the Crusaders' early hard bop sound. Both clips also include some footage of the show's host Frank Evans, a well-known jazz DJ on the West Coast, as well as a bit of the Crusaders playing what seems to be the program's theme song, a swinging straight-ahead blues.

In the 1970s, the band dropped the word “jazz" from their name and made a series of very successful recordings using electric bass and guitar (often played by Larry Carlton, who was an official member of the band for several years), funk backbeats and more electric keyboards. Henderson departed the band in 1975 to pursue a solo career, but the other three continued on, as you can see in the third clip, a version of Henderson's tune “Keep That Same Old Feeling" recorded in 1984 by a lineup featuring Sample, Felder and Hooper with bassist Eddie Watkins, guitarist Barry Finnerty and percussionist Paulinho Da Costa.

The last three clips - “Put It Where You Want It," “Street Life," and “Way Back Home" - all come from the 2003 Montreux Jazz Festival, for which the lineup consisted of Sample, Felder and guitarist Ray Parker Jr., along with trombonist Stephen Baxter, drummer Kendrick Scott, bassist Freddie Washington, and, on “Street Life," singer Randi Crawford. All three of these tunes were popular upon first release, and given their enduring appeal, certainly could get played at next week's concert at the Touhill.

The current touring lineup, officially billed as the Original Jazz Crusaders, reunites Henderson with Sample and Felder, and also include Sample's son Nick on bass as well as drummer Doug Belote. According to this review of their performance in April at the Berks Jazz Festival in Pennsylvania, the set list includes “a tasty gumbo of their classics, a jazz standard or two and some tunes that could make a dead man tap his toes." You can see some nice photos of that gig here, and for more on the Jazz Crusaders' somewhat convoluted history, see their Wikipedia page.

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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