Sun. Dec. 05, 2021

The Crusaders – Street Life (MCA)

Classics: The Crusaders – Street Life (MCA)

Music is not only an artform. It’s certainly the most beautiful language one might think of. And this, first and foremost because of its universality. There’s nothing more beautiful as a language than music when it comes to be spoken / expressed with absolute class. And ‘Street Life’ perfectly illustrates this as a matter of fact. What The Crusaders achieved to do back in 1974 on ‘Stomp And Buck Dance’, they would repeat it five years later with ‘Street Life’. Although switching from Jazz/Funk to Soul/Jazz meanwhile introducing a new singing promising talent by the likes of Randy Crawford.

We had a Jazz/Funk masterpiece with ‘Stomp And Buck Dance’. And we definitely have a staple in the history of Soul/Jazz. And this, once again, has everything to do with the way all these talents managed to speak to each other. Meanwhile welcoming the arrival of Paulinho Da Costa on percussion and Arthur Adams on guitar for the occasion.

A Soul/Jazz manifesto, no wonder why the 12″ promo copy of ‘Street Life’ stands as an absolute must have for the connoisseurs…

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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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