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The Jazz Crusaders: Pacific Jazz Quintet Studio Sessions on Mosaic Records

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A First-Time Ever Set From A One-Of-A-Kind Band - The Jazz Crusaders.

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. The Pacific Jazz Quintet Studio Sessions is the first major retrospective of The Jazz Crusaders, a band that, later in its lifespan, would highlight different influences and become one of the most popular bands in music. This collection, from the 1960s, presents them at a time when they were largely un-amplified, full of energy, and unbelievably prolific (sessions from 9 LPs are represented here, and that's just the studio stuff).

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.

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.

Simple Beginnings

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.

From their first recordings, The Jazz Crusaders proved they sounded like no one else. They took as their foundation what 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, music tinged with many elements, but never anything you could lump into a basket.

A Unique Blend

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.

In fact, part of what makes The Jazz Crusaders' music through the decade of the 1960s so appealing is that their background and musical influences seemed to put them on a course of musical discovery, seeking ways to apply the art of self expression and improvisation to their own compositions and to a wide repertoire from the jazz and pop worlds.

Over the years, there were other studio albums outside the concept of this release (a big band date, a collaboration with Les McCann and an album with Latin percussionists). This set is pure Jazz Crusaders. As the bass player changed from Jimmy Bond, to Bobby Haynes, Victor Gaskin, Monk Montgomery, Al McKibbon, Leroy Vinnegar, and Buster Williams, different techniques and approaches to the instrument brought out qualities of drive, introspection, or passion in the band.

The Pacific Jazz Quintet Studio Sessions features 90 tracks on six CDs, including four alternates and nine newly-uncovered performances that have never appeared on record or CD. On several tracks, the core band is joined by guitarists Roy Gaines, Joe Pass, or Arthur Adams. The exclusive Mosaic booklet includes rare photographs from the original sessions, a complete discography of the sessions, a history of the band featuring new interviews with Felder, Hooper, Sample, and Williams, and a track-by-track appraisal of the music by Bob Blumenthal.

We're hoping this first major retrospective of The Jazz Crusaders will enliven their spirit of discovery in you.

6 CDs - $102.00
Limited Edition: 5000 copies

This story appears courtesy of All About Jazz Publicity.
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