They began playing together as the Swingsters when pianist Joe Sample, tenor saxophonist Wilton Felder, and drummer Stix Hooper were high school students in Houston, Texas. The music they played was typical of their hometown - bluesy, soulful, and spirited. They'd get together in the Fifth Ward, where Felder lived, to rehearse; before long, they fell sway to a new sound, by guys like Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach, whose records they'd listen to for hours.
Adding trombonist Wayne Henderson, flutist/alto saxophonist Hubert Laws, and bass player Henry Wilson, they changed their name to the Modern Jazz Sextet and sought to master their instruments as the beboppers had done. But they never lost that Southern feel or their gulf basin roots. That group continued playing locally as the members worked their way through college.
It was the desire to explore more things musically, and get paid for doing it, that encouraged Felder, Sample, Hooper and Henderson to migrate to Los Angeles, where they often worked as an R&B cover band called the Night Hawks. But every chance they got, the young musicians performed their own mix of the sounds that came out of their culture and their experiences. It was only when they were signed to Pacific Jazz that they adopted the name that would remain unchanged for a decade.
When Dick Bock of Pacific Jazz heard their music, he couldn't name it, categorize it, or resist it. Two tunes into their audition, they had a deal! With the music on this set - which, except for the band's premiere recording, appears on CD for the first time anywhere - we get to learn why, all over again.