Joe Sample returns to the smooth jazz style of his popular albums Rainbow Seeker, Carmel, and Voices in the Rain on 1983's The Hunter. The keyboardist fills up a studio with like-minded session musicians including trumpeter Tom Browne, horn players Chuck Findley, Jerry Hey, and Ernie Watts, guitarists Dean Parks, David Spinozza, and Phil Upchurch, bassists Abraham Laboriel and Marcus Miller, percussionist Paulinho Da Costa, and drummer Steve Gadd, and sets them loose on some rhythmic tracks with a rock/R&B feel.
Three classic albums from Crusaders’ original member Joe Sample from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
Back in 1978 when this set was recorded, fusion (the mixture of jazz improvisation with rock rhythms) was declining. Keyboardist Joe Sample, best-known for his work with the Crusaders, was in the process of being one of the founders of "contemporary jazz," an idiom that has since solidified into smooth jazz. Sample emphasized catchy melodies, light funk rhythms, appealing chord changes and a pop sensibility. For this accessible release, Sample is joined by the late legendary guitarist Billy Rogers, bassist Pops Popwell, his old Crusaders drummer Stix Hooper, a horn section and several guest guitarists. All eight tunes (which include "Fly with the Wings of Love" and "Islands in the Rain") are by the leader, who is heard throughout in melodic form, setting up a variety of light grooves that serve as superior background music.
Randy Crawford's and Joe Sample's musical paths have been intertwined for 36 years; they began with his keyboard work on her debut album Everything Must Change in 1976. She returned the favor a couple of years later with her vocal on the Crusaders' 1978 smash "Street Life." The pair have worked together intermittently since then, but only formally recorded as a dual entity on 2007's Feeling Good, a collection of (mostly) jazz tunes and standards. They followed it with No Regrets in 2008, a collection of blues, soul, and pop tunes. Both albums were highly regarded critically. Sample's piano was aided by drummer Steve Gadd and bassist Christian McBride. Live was recorded on various European stages between October and December of 2008, immediately prior to and just after the release of No Regrets.
Joe Sample is the golden boy of American fusion-jazz, but his recent project Children of the Sun is not as sunny as the title might imply. Stimulated by a visit to the Caribbean island of St. Croix, he started to look particularly into the subject of slavery – a part of his own family history. Sample has been planning this project since 1995, and will bring his composition to the Berlin audience with the NDR Bigband (the Hamburg Radio Big Band), arranged by Jorg Achim Keller.
On his first solo-piano CD, dedicated to the pioneering bandleader James Reese Europe, Sample demonstrates his jazz cred with a mastery of stride and ragtime. Save for reflective and expansive reprises of hits "Spellbound" and "Soul Shadows," Sample delves into early 20th Century pop and Tin Pan Alley standards. The supple, southern syncopations on Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" and Jelly Roll Morton's sizzling "Shreveport Stomp" offer evidence of Sample's strong left hand and the elegance of his improvisations, mixing blues feeling, Creole rhythms, and elements of the European classics.
The Pecan Tree is a collection of 11 compositions from master pianist/composer Joe Sample that were inspired by his Southeast Texas roots and influences. As a founding member of the pioneering quartet the Jazz Crusaders and as a solo artist, the pianist has created an impressive musical style based upon his early appreciation for jazz, gospel, soul, bebop, blues, Latin, and classical music. The Pecan Tree features many of those musical genres performed with such special guests as Lenny Castro and Paulinho da Costa on percussion, renowned R&B vocalist Howard Hewett, and newcomer Lizz Wright. Sample's Quintet kicks off the set with the title track, a Latin-tinged mid-tempo instrumental that features Sample's beautiful melodicism in harmony with the percussive mastery of Lenny Castro. The ensemble brings their creativity ingenuity to "Hot and Humid," a sweltering musical story of the region's weather condition.
Pianist Joe Sample's Warner Bros. session mostly features relaxed acoustic music. Sample emphasizes his original melodies during his improvisations and is backed quite ably by bassist Jay Anderson, drummer Ralph Penland and an occasional percussionist. Most notable is that tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd guests on three tracks, playing in his usual mellow version of John Coltrane.
With the supremely funky rhythm section of Marcus Miller (bass), Lenny Castro (percussion) and Omar Hakim (drums) propelling his piano most of the way – the other ringers on a few tracks aren't bad either – you would think that Joe Sample couldn't miss on this solo outing, Spellbound. Indeed, his distinctive piano cannot be mistaken for anyone else's, free of the usual mainstream influences and always a pleasure to groove to. And yet there is something too comfortable, too settled, too automatic about the musicmaking here, as if the grooves are being smothered by a warm, snuggly electric blanket.
In case anyone has forgotten how ingratiating and prolific Joe Sample the songwriter has been, the master of elegant funk re-records 14 songs here. And it is a cooler, more reflective light in which Sample and producer George Duke see his old tunes in the '90s: with relaxed, uncomplicated, to-the-point acoustic piano leads; a mildly percolating beat; and a veneer-thin garnish of electronics.