The Crusaders Live at Montreux 2003 Eagle Eye Media
The Jazz Crusaders was formed in 1960 from a group that played together in Houston, Texas. Stix Hooper, Joe Sample and Wilton Felder moved out to form the new band and pulled in Wayne Henderson to complete the basic quartet. They got rid of "Jazz" in the group's title in 1971, a reflection of the assimilation of the different streams their music imbibed including funk and soul.
Time is not static, and neither are tastes. There were personnel changes over the year, and The Crusaders finally disbanded. In 2003, however, Hooper, Sample and Felder came back to record Rural Renewal with Ray Parker Jr. They toured in support of the album. Montreux, the setting for this video performance, was on their list of destinations.
A live performance by a familiar cast thrives not only on current repertoire but also on nostalgia. The Crusaders balanced playing three songs from Rural Renewal with giving the past another look on nine songs, including the Parker smash hit "Ghostbusters," which closes the set.
The viewer will see that the Crusaders are in the groove right from the first note, but as the concert progresses it becomes apparent their then current material paled in comparison to the old. "Viva De Funk" just about greases the wheels of the rhythm while "Rural Renewal" is a tad too smooth and easy. But let those pass: the band shouts in glory on the other material, particularly on the classic fare, "Put It Where You Want It" and "Way Back Home." Both continue to be pulse-pounders in their own way. Parker sets up the first, his guitar heralding the horns and establishing a deep, solid rhythm bed. The mood is infectious, abetted by the groove and the changes in tempo. Sample calls the second "The Anthem," and so it's appropriately named. Felder mines the blues, and the band cuts in and turns on a spellbinding performance. It still shines as a majestic composition.
Randy Crawford is in fine voice as she sings blues, soul and pop. Her soft vocals are like a silk thread weaving a magic spell as she brings her impress to bear on a jazzy version of "Imagine," The highlight however, is her version of "Soul Shadows," on which she harvests every word and its nuance to perfection.
At the end of it all, The Crusaders and Crawford turn on the heat and let their music capture the night.
Tracks: Spiral; Viva De Funk; Creepin'; Way Back Home; Carnival of the Night; Put It Where You Want It; The Thrill is Gone; Soul Shadows; Street Life; Imagine; Rural Renewal; Ghostbusters.
Personnel: Joe Sample: keyboards; Wilton Felder: saxophones; Stephan Baxter: trombone; Ray Parker Jr.: guitar; Kendrick Scott: drums; Freddie Washington: bass; Randy Crawford: vocals.
Production Notes: 133 minutes. Recorded: June 2003.