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Click below for a Crusaders sample:

Keep That Same Old Feeling

 

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The Crusaders had two separate careers during their time together - one as a hard-bop band and a later, more successful one as a leading fusion act. 

Their history dates back to the 1950s, when Joe Sample (keyboards), Stix Hooper (drums), Wayne Henderson (trombone), and Wilton Felder (tenor sax) started playing together in Texas.  By 1961, they had decided on the name Jazz Crusaders and were signed to the Pacific Jazz label.   

For the rest of that decade, the Jazz Crusaders built a steady following of fans, as the trombone/saxophone front line became their trademark.  Their r&b-flavored jazz made them a popular concert attraction, but that didn't translate into LP sales, and by 1969, they were so frustrated that they decided to take some time off. 

When they resurfaced on ABC Records, they had dropped the "Jazz" from their name and joined the jazz-funk crowd, emphasizing funk riffs and strong rhythms.  The new approach paid dividends right away as "Put It Where You Want It" was a top 40 single, followed by "Don't Let It Get  You Down" in 1973.

The year 1974 was a watershed period for the Crusaders.  Adding guitarist Larry Carlton as a fifth member, Southern Comfort showcased all sides of the band, from the traditional pieces "A Ballad for Joe" and "Lillies of the Nile" to the hard-hitting "Stomp and Buck Dance" and "Time Bomb."  Comfort was the critical and commercial breakthrough they had been wanting for more than a decade.  

Around this time, the guys took advantage of their popularity by taking on outside session work.  Working with artists of the caliber of Minnie Riperton, Curtis Mayfield, Steely Dan, Michael Franks, Van Morrison, and Barry White, the band was a ubiquitious presence on the pop charts.  

Their ABC albums were more or less variations of the ideas presented on Southern Comfort, which meant tight solos and solid group interplay served over a bed of funky rhythms. Henderson left in 1975 to become a producer, but Chain Reaction, Those Southern Knights and Free As the Wind all went gold, confirming the Crusaders' status as superstars.

When their formula began growing stale in the late 70s, they struck gold with "Street Life," a jazzy disco song sung by Randy Crawford.  It was their biggest hit, but the last time many would hear from the Crusaders.  They recorded in the early 80s but Stix Hooper left in 1983, effectively marking the end of the group. 

The members have enjoyed varying levels of success on their own, with Joe Sample generally considered to have the most substantial solo career. Henderson and Felder revived the Crusaders name for a 1998 release that was quickly forgotten, but Rural Renewal, from 2003, was greeted with a much warmer reception..   

Crusaders' Deepest Grooves

Live at the Lighthouse '66 (Pacific Jazz, 1966)

Uh-Huh - Jazz Crusaders (Pacific Jazz, 1967)

Lighthouse '68 (Pacific Jazz, 1968)

Old Socks, New Shoes - Jazz Crusaders (Chisa, 1970)

1 (ABC, 1971)

The 2nd Crusade (ABC, 1972)

Scratch (ABC, 1974)

Southern Comfort (ABC, 1974)

Chain Reaction (ABC, 1975)

Those Southern Knights (ABC, 1976)

Free as the Wind (ABC, 1977)

Images (ABC, 1978)

Street Life (MCA, 1979)

Vocal Album (MCA, 1987)
Spotlights the singers employed by the Crusaders through the years.  Includes contributions from Joe Cocker, Randy Crawford and Bobby Womack.

The Golden Years (GRP, 1992)
Three cd box of the peak years of the Crusaders, from their Jazz Crusaders material to the songs cut right before Stix Hooper left the band.

Way Back Home (Blue Thumb, 1996)
More detailed four cd set that includes more early material.

The Crusaders' Finest Hour (Polygram, 2000)
For the casual fan, an easy to digest compilation of the most popular ABC songs.

Rural Renewal (Verve, 2003)
Excellent comeback that reunites the group with longtime producer Stewart Levine.  Features special guests Eric Clapton and Sons of Blackness on a diverse set that covers their swing roots to Latin jazz.  Steve Baxter fills in for Wayne Henderson.  

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