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Wow! I don't think there is a better description for this new recording from Joe Sample. I truly believe that this is the best jazz CD that I have heard in the past year.
If you're a new listener to jazz, Sample is an accomplished composer, keyboardist and co-founder of the Crusaders. The Pecan Tree is his newest and quite possibly finest recording. For the Pecan Tree, Sample has ventured back to his roots, down to the city of his youth Houston, Texas. It was in Houston that Sample first began playing piano at age five.
The Pecan Tree is a CD of themes all of them set in the deep south. The track titles each evoke the geographical atmosphere of Sample's hometown. With titles like "Hot & Humid," "The Texas Two Step," "X Marks the Spot (Marie Laveau)," "Spanish Moss," "El Dorado" and "The Pecan Tree," Sample transports the listener to the area west of the delta, a hot, humid cauldron that has created a musical stew. This stew was consumed heartily by Sample. He soaked up its very essence and fibre and ahs been serving it up to us, the public for over four decades.
The Pecan tree features seven stunning instrumental tracks, but is by no means an instrumental journey. Four superb tracks feature vocals. "With These Hands," an old R&B song is given a wonderful interpretation by ex-Shalamar vocalist Howard Hewett. Hewett also handles the vocals on "In A Heartbeat" a fantastic groove co-written by Sample's son Nicklas. This song has the hooks and feeling that could make it a number 1 pop hit. The remaining two vocal performances feature Lizz Wright, a singer just signed to the Verve label. Ms. Wright (who melodious voice will soon be heard across the land on the radio) provides the vocals on "Fool's Gold" and "No One but Myself to Blame" both of which feature music written by Sample and lyrics written by renowned singer/songwriter Jonathan Brooke.
For a trip to jazz heaven or if you're just trying to bring the local jazz club to your living room, sit back and listen to the smooth grooves of The Pecan Tree.
Track Listing: The Pecan Tree; Hot and Humid; No One But Myself to Blame; X Marks the Spot; Fool's Gold; Spanish Moss; In a Heartbeat; El Dorado; With These Hands; The Texas Two Step; Memories.
Personnel: Howard Hewett: vocals; Joe Sample: piano; Jay Anderson: bass; Larry Aberman: drums;
Lenny Castro: percussion; Paulinho Da Costa : percussion; James Gadson : drums; Dean Parks: guitar; Liz Wright: vocals.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.