The Jazz Crusaders. What’s in a name? Whether self-consciously or on a subliminal level, crusading they did; throughout the sixties they pushed the boundaries by incorporating gospel, tin pan alley and Beatles into jazz and popularising it in a major way. This is far from a downgrade on their part. Indeed, I don’t think that I’ll be the last to consider them the West Coast equivalent of The Jazz Messengers or Cannonball Adderley’s Quintet. Maybe not solo-wise, but their group sound and interplay certainly carries the kind of excitement that these iconic groups brought.
Wilton Felder (tenor), Wayne Henderson (trombone), Joe Sample (piano, harpsichord), Stix Hooper (drums), Bobby Haynes (bass)
February 13 & 19, 1963 at Pacific Jazz Studios, Los Angeles
as PJ-68 in 1963
No Name Samba
Tough talk is The Jazz Crusaders’ fourth release on Pacific Jazz Records and a very rewarding session. (it is not to be confused with 1973’s Blue Note compilation of the same name) With the exception of Brahms’ Lullaby, all tunes are originals. Most of them revolve around exceptionally playful themes that bookend vigorous and thoughtful blowing. These gentlemen, together from their teens and still barely in their twenties, play with youthful abundance. On Turkish black, an Eastern flavored, quixotic composition on which Felder’s and Wayne Henderson’s interplay between tenor and trombone works particularly well, the very articulate tenor of composer Wilton Felder exhibits an urgency that is reminiscent of John Coltrane. Although Felder is very much his own man, this particular aspect of his playing would come to the fore especially on 1967’s Uh Huh.
Title track Tough Talk is a very catchy blues. It bounces merrily and Joe Sample’s harpsichord gives it a distinctive flavor. It’s not really possible to use the harpsichord in a percussive, down-home fashion. This might be the reason they reworked it on their 1965 album Chili Con Soul. And tastefully so.
Of course in the seventies they would give full measure to pop and funk as The Crusaders. Fame came with it and as an apex to their career stands their 1979 hit collaboration with Randy Crawford, Street Light. High standard entries in the mainstream but not my cup of tea.