1 minute read

Joe Sample

Escaped Realities Of Segregation Through Music

Sample explained a deeper motivation for his mastery of the piano in a statement reproduced on the Web site of agent Richard De La Font. "I grew up in a time and place where segregation was an acceptable way of life, and for me the piano was the only place I could run for an act of healing," he stated. "I still feel that expressing myself this way is my great sanctuary. I would like my legacy to be not only that I reflected the times in which I lived, but also that my music had the power to help heal people's pain the way it has healed mine."

In high school in the 1950s, Sample teamed up with two friends, saxophonist Wilton Felder and drummer Nesbert "Stix" Hooper, to form a group called the Swingsters. While studying piano at Texas Southern University, Sample met and added trombonist Wayne Henderson and several other players to the Swingsters. The Swingsters changed their name first to the Modern Jazz Sextet and then to the Jazz Crusaders, in emulation of one of the leading progressive jazz bands of the day, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Sample never took a degree from the university; instead in 1960, he and the Jazz Crusaders made the move from Houston to Los Angeles.

The group quickly found opportunities on the West Coast, making its first recording, Freedom Sounds, in 1961 and releasing up to four albums a year over much of the 1960s. The Jazz Crusaders played at first in the dominant hard bop style of the day, standing out by virtue of their unusual front-line combination of saxophone (played by Wilton Felder) and Henderson's trombone. Another distinctive quality was the funky, rhythmically appealing acoustic piano playing of Sample, who helped steer the group's sound into a fusion between jazz and soul in the late 1960s. The Jazz Crusaders became a strong concert draw during those years.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr BiographyJoe Sample Biography - Escaped Realities Of Segregation Through Music, Worked As Session Musician, Suffered From Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Selected discography