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Jazz Crusaders:Pacific Jazz Quintet Studio Sessions (#230)Mosaic Records Limited Edition Box Set
“The thing that set them apart was how well they played together; nobody could cut the Crusaders when it came to playing together as a unit.” – Duck Baker, Coda
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Regulary $102; On Sale $89
Sale Ends August 31st
Limited Edition: 5000 copies
6 CDs - $89.00
From their first recordings, The Jazz Crusaders proved they sounded like no one else. They took as their foundation what Joe Sample called the three pillars of African American music: jazz, blues and gospel. So many of the songs could only have come from this band, whose unique approach to writing sustained them over their many years of working together. Each member would bring tunes to the session, where they would work over them as a team. The result would be complex phrases, uncommon segment lengths and music tinged with many elements.
It's no surprise that a band as committed to ensemble writing would excel at ensemble playing, and The Jazz Crusaders were masters of the art through this period of their history. Henderson's liquid trombone, Felder's hot Texas tenor, Hooper's driving beat, and Sample's commanding, confident piano style, make the perfect blend.
When they surfaced in Los Angeles in 1961, poised to make their first LP, no one knew quite what to make of these musicians who seemed unlike any other "West Coast" organizations. Not only weren't they part of the west coast sound, whatever that was, but they didn't seem to even care about it or recognize its relevance. The Jazz Crusaders featured their own eclectic line-up; played a signature mix of sounds, all with an appealing, tight groove, that had more to do with the music's roots than a lot of the jazz they were hearing. The music they played was typical of their hometown, Houston, Texas - bluesy, soulful, and spirited.
A great discovery lies ahead for music buyers whose collections were assembled primarily in the CD era. And for others who let intervening years dull their memory of this band's truly original talent. This is the first major retrospective of The Jazz Crusaders and this collection, from the 1960s, presents them at a time when they were largely un-amplified, full of energy, and unbelievably prolific.
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Track Listing, Personnel & Recording Dates »
“Few jazzers are so joyously pickled in blues, soul, R&B and gospel. And Amen to that. – Kenny Weir, Sunday Herald Sun
- Audio Quality
- Sample Session Notes
In the age of microsizing, every Mosaic Records Box Set booklet is still 11 x 11 inches to allow our customers to appreciate all the extras we put into printing them (and for easier reading).
All but the first session in this collection was recorded on three, four or eight-track tape. Those original masters were remixed and mastered in 24 bit by Ron McMaster at Capitol Studios in Hollywood.
Photo Copyright © Protected
Photographs from those sessions by Woody Woodward and Ray Avery.
The Freedom Sound, May 24, 1961
The Jazz Crusaders’ debut album included Philadelphia native Jimmy Bond (1933-2001) in the bass chair, a veteran of tours with Chet Baker, Ella Fitzgerald and Paul Horn who became a fixture on the Los Angeles scene. Some tracks also feature guitarist Roy Gaines, a contemporary from Houston who has spent the ensuing decades carrying on the Texas blues traditional personified by his idol T-Bone Walker. The music was produced in two sessions, with Gaines present only at the first. The Geek, a Felder blues in 6/8, captures the sanctified sound made popular at the time by Cannonball Adderley’s recording of Bobby Timmons’ This Here, and gives everyone except Bond a chance to blow. Gaines begins, his rather archaic electric sound creating an effect when he moves into octaves far different than what one heard at the time from Wes Montgomery. Henderson is powerful and succinct, with excellent support from Hooper; Sample displays his superior keyboard touch; and Felder takes an extra chorus to introduce his impassioned sound. (“It has to do with playing the blues, in blues bands, and knowing what it takes to be heard when you’re surrounded by guitars and no microphone of your own,” he says of the “Texas tenor” phenomenon.) After Hooper takes a chorus that emphasizes the form, the band blows two restrained shout choruses before returning to the theme.
The next two tracks were attempted both with and without guitar, and in each instance the takes sans Gaines were selected for release on the original LP. Length was clearly a factor in selecting the master of M.J.S. Funk, which is two and a half minutes shorter than the alternate, but there are also differences in tempo as well as some confusion at the end of the alternate take’s four-bar exchanges that carries over to the recapitulation. Henderson’s skipping medium-tempo blues, with its unusual five-bar introduction, is a bit too speedy in the master take; but the solos are all strong and there is clearly more conviction on the out chorus. Felder, propelled into the opening solo by a band break, propels the others in turn with his intensity, and Henderson makes a jaunty, sweet-and-sour statement. Sample waits until his final chorus on the master to introduce block chords, and Bond matches the mobility of his support with a fluent solo. The alternate take finds the bassist in two behind the first trombone chorus, while Gaines (who comps for the horns along with Sample) adds a few Wes Montgomery touches in his choruses before shifting into his own thing.
Henderson also contributed Coon, which illustrates original annotator John William Hardy’s comment on the writing style of the band. “The originals show freshness without being unusually defiant of musical precedent,” Hardy observed, “and are authentically `jazzy’ without sounding like all the originals you ever heard.” Coon, despite its standard 32-bar blowing form, is surely unique, with its complex phrases and orchestrated drum figures. Hooper is brilliant in the ensembles, and everyone else in the band makes the tricky melody sound second-nature. The master take is again shorter, with Hooper’s solo halved and no guitar chorus, and it also gains from a reordered sequence that puts the assertive composer in the opening spot.
Joe Sample wrote The Freedom Sound in 1958, when the band left Texas for LA. “At the time, I vowed never to set foot below the Mason-Dixon Line again,” says the pianist, who has since returned to his native Houston. “It wasn’t just the racism, it was also the violence in my neighborhood and how the rich culture of the powerful black communities had been vanishing. Benny Golson wrote a composition for Art Blakey, Blues March, that really touched me. It inspired me to write a melody with a lot of spiritual value on a march rhythm. I didn’t want to present it to the band at first, because it didn’t sound jazzy. It took me a few years to realize that the uniqueness of things like that was not a weakness.”
The Freedom Sound became one of the jazz world’s civil rights anthems, and features an arrangement built around the piano lead that recalls the Houstonians’ early fascination with the Modern Jazz Quartet. Sample, Felder and Bond get a chorus each, with the calm determination of the tenor solo in perfect keeping with the tune’s message. The flexibility of Hooper’s beat, and Bond’s extended solo, recall another highly evocative contemporary composition on a similar subject, Charles Mingus’ Fables Of Faubus. “Don Heckman once called me a storyteller,” Sample adds, “and I do tell stories when I write and play music. It goes back to how visions would run through my head when I heard Peer Gynt and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as a kid. I could smell things when I heard that music, and that’s what I was after with The Freedom Sound.”
The popularity of an edited version on a 45 (with The Geek as flip side) indicates how well Sample succeeded. The Freedom Sound remained a staple in the band’s book, and appeared in a live version recorded at the 1966 Newport Jazz Festival on The Festival Album. It also survived into the post-Jazz Crusaders era, appearing on the band’s 1973 disc Unsung Heroes.
The then-unknown Chicago saxophonist Eddie Harris had recorded Theme From `Exodus’ four months earlier, and his version was already establishing itself as a surprise hit. The Jazz Crusaders version is more somber and reduces the melody to a 16-bar blowing form, with Henderson stating the theme. Enlivening touches include a brief pedal-point interlude separating the tenor and trombone solos and the four-bar exchanges between Sample and Bond.
Felder’s That’s It has a logically labyrinthine theme worthy of Benny Golson. The form is AABA, but the main section covers 22 bars in distinct 8/6/8 bar sections, and together with the eight-bar bridge forms a 74-bar chorus that had to be tricky to navigate. Structural complexity may explain the awkward edit between the tenor and trombone solos, although both Henderson and the composer retain their composure. Felder, who acknowledges no other goal than “reflecting what I heard and saw at the time” when he wrote the piece, provided a forum for the more complex notions of this uncommonly full-spectrum band.
“It has been some time since an unknown and unrecorded group has made a more auspicious debut,” Hardy concluded in his original liner notes. “Whether or not they can stay together as a wholly jazz playing aggregation will depend on many factors, or course,” he added; “but frankly I wouldn’t bet against them."
CUSTOMER REVIEWSClick here to write a review
"Got it yesterday and have played it non-stop since. This collection is exceptional with the flavor of soul and jazz that you would expect from this stellar group. This is my 24th Mosaic box set."
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