Classics: The Crusaders – Stomp And Buck Dance (ABC / Blue Thumb Records)
Kinda hard to resist shakin’ the head and movin’ the feet while havin’ a listen to ‘Stomp And Dance’. What a power this gem delivers as a matter of fact. With its protagonists all reachin’ their peak. From Joe Sample‘s funky wah-wah laden clavinet solo. To Wilton Felder and Wayne Henderson‘s scintillating solos that gradually come up. Meanwhile somehow reminding the outstanding hookup between Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis Of The JB’s. The whole along with Larry Carlton‘s hypnotic guitar play over Stix Hooper slammin’ backbeat.
Besides, kind hard not to make a connection with The Soul Searchers‘ ‘Ashley’s Roachclip’ which got released that same year, in 1974. Eventually if one didn’t come to influence the other. Anyway, ‘Stomp And Buck Dance’ pretty much stands among our all time favs, here on IDMW. With big ups to Wayne Henderson and Stewart Levine respecitvely in charge of its writing and production work.
From Houston, TX, The Crusaders saw the light on the ashes of two local bands: The Swingsters and the Nite Hawks. Relocating to Los Angeles, CA, they changed their name to The Jazz Crusaders. Eventually signing with Pacific Jazz Records, where they would remain throughout the 60’s. This with an original line-up comprising Wilton Felder (saxophone), Wayne Henderson (trombone), Stix Hooper (drums) and Joe Sample (piano).
The 70’s saw the group shortening their name to The Crusaders. But also opting for a Jazz/Funk style. Meanwhile welcoming bass guitarist Robert ‘Pops’ Popwell and guitarist Larry Carlton who featured on the group’s albums throughout most of the 70’s. With most of the latter seeing the light on Blue Thumb Records/ABC during that decade. Beginning with the memorable ‘Southern Comfort’ back in 1974. An album which features the intoxicating ‘Stomp And Buck Dance’ to be considered as a manifesto in the genre.
Other masterpieces following such as the title track of their 1975 ‘Chain Reaction’ album. And how to not think of the firing ‘Sweet N’ Sour’ from their ‘Free As The Wind’ album, two years later. Meanwhile they would reach their definitive peak in 1979, eventually introducing singer Randy Crawford on the mythic ‘Street Life’ from their album of the likes on MCA.
The Crusaders never managed to get any higher in the charts though, despite regular releases throughout the following year. Mind you, something had most likely gone when Wayne Henderson left the band in 1975. And Stix Hooper, doin’ the same in 1983, didn’t arrange anything. Thus marking the end to the group’s most popular period.
Henderson, who had left the group in 1975, revived The Jazz Crusaders moniker despite Sample‘s objections. This resulting in the release of the 1995 ‘Happy Again’ album featuring Wilton Felder and Larry Carlton. They released a series of recordings in the late 90’s, but the music but their music happened to be too far from the style of the original group, meanwhile emphasizing synthesizers, sampling, electronics, and drum machines.
In 2003, founding members Sample, Felder and Hooper revived The Crusaders and released ‘Rural Renewal’. Eventually recruiting Ray Parker, Jr. and Eric Clapton. And seven years later, Joe Sample announced a reunion tour with Wayne Henderson and Wilton Felder (but not Stix Hooper). The first reunion of these founding members of the Jazz Crusaders since 1974…
Henderson, who had suffered from diabetes, sadly died of heart failure at a Culver City hospital, CA on Apr. 5, 2014 at age 74. Then a few months after, Sample passed on Sept. 12 after battling against mesothelioma in Houston, TX, at the age of 75. A bit more than a year after (on Sept. 27, 2015), Felder died aged 75 at his home in Whittier, CA from multiple myeloma. Meanwhile Nov. 27, 2017 saw the passing of Robert Popwell at the age of 66 in Lebanon, TN.
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