My fist experience with the Jazz Crusaders was in 1966 when I found their LP “The Festival Album” is a used record store. The LP is still in my collection and the day after I heard this concert I put it on my turntable and carried myself back to 1966. Was the group I heard the night before as good as those young turks that played the Newport and Pacific Jazz Festivals way back in the ’60’s. My conclusion: yes, they are.
The personnel in ’66 was Joe Sample on piano, Herbie Lewis on bass, Wayne Henderson on Trombone, Stix Hooper on drums and Wilton Felder on tenor sax. The Berks group had Sample on piano, his son Dave on bass, Wayne on trombone and Wilton on sax (I didn’t catch the drummer’s name). They opened with Young Rabbits and it was like I was at Newport in1966. Sure, Wilton and Wayne have lost some of their range and some of those fast hand motions. But Sample’s piano is still strong and they were able to compliment each other like they had never left the stage at Newport.
From Young Rabbits they moved to Night Theme and it was as haunting now as when it was first recorded. The Freedom Sound, The Nearness of You, Scratch, and a signature tune of theirs, Street Life. It was marvelous. Joe and Wayne recounted some memories from the past which made the significance of the tunes that much more enjoyable.
Joe Sample set the tone and the atmosphere with his big, funky chords and the bass working inside the structure he created, a perfect compliment. Wayne’s solos on both trombone and flugelhorn were mellow and filled with soul and emotion.
It was nostalgic, it was new and in the end it was another great night at the Berks Jazz Fest.