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The Crusaders, originally known as The Jazz Crusaders, are a pioneering American jazz-fusion group known for their innovative blend of jazz, R&B, and funk.

Their career spans several decades, and they have made significant contributions to the evolution of contemporary jazz.

Formation and Early Years (1952-1970)

The group was formed in Houston, Texas, in 1952, by high school friends Joe Sample (piano), Wilton Felder (saxophone), Stix Hooper (drums), and Wayne Henderson (trombone). Initially, they performed under the name The Swingsters, and later as The Modern Jazz Sextet when they added a bass player and a guitarist.

In 1961, after moving to Los Angeles, they adopted the name The Jazz Crusaders.

Their early work was heavily influenced by hard bop and soul jazz, and they were known for their robust, soulful sound.

They released a series of successful albums on the Pacific Jazz label, including:

"Freedom Sound" (1961)

"Lookin' Ahead" (1962)

"Tough Talk" (1963)

"Heat Wave" (1963)

Transition to The Crusaders (1971-1980)

In the early 1970s, reflecting their broadened musical scope, the band dropped the "Jazz" from their name and became simply The Crusaders. This change marked a shift towards a more electric, funk-infused sound that incorporated elements of rock and R&B. Their music during this period appealed to a broader audience and helped popularize jazz-fusion. Key albums from this era include:

"Pass the Plate" (1971) ,"Crusaders 1" (1972)

"Southern Comfort" (1974)"Chain Reaction" (1975) - This album featured the hit single "Keep That Same Old Feeling." "Those Southern Knights" (1976) - Included the popular track "Keep That Same Old Feeling." "Images" (1978).

One of their most significant achievements came in 1979 with the release of "Street Life," which featured Randy Crawford on vocals.

The title track became a major hit, reaching the top of the charts and becoming an anthem of the era.

Continued Success and Changes (1981-1990).

The 1980s saw continued success for The Crusaders, though they experienced several lineup changes. Wayne Henderson left the band in 1976 to pursue a solo career, but the core trio of Sample, Felder, and Hooper continued to produce and perform. Notable albums from this period include: "Rhapsody and Blues" (1980), "Standing Tall" (1981), "Ghetto Blaster" (1984),"The Good and Bad Times" (1986). Despite the changing musical landscape, The Crusaders maintained their distinctive sound and continued to attract a loyal following.

Later Years and Legacy (1991-Present).

In the 1990s, the members pursued individual projects, but they also reunited for various tours and recordings. Joe Sample, in particular, had a successful solo career, and his work continued to influence contemporary jazz and fusion.

In 2003, The Crusaders released "Rural Renewal," which featured guest appearances by Eric Clapton and Ray Parker Jr. This album was well-received and demonstrated the band's enduring appeal.

Key Members

  • Joe Sample (1939-2014): Pianist and composer, known for his fluid playing and composition skills.

  • Wilton Felder (1940-2015): Saxophonist and bassist, contributed to the group's distinctive sound.

  • Stix Hooper (b. 1938): Drummer, provided the rhythmic foundation of the band.

  • Wayne Henderson (1939-2014): Trombonist, known for his soulful playing and arrangements.

Influence and Impact

The Crusaders have left an indelible mark on the music world, particularly in the realms of jazz, R&B, and fusion. They were instrumental in breaking down the barriers between jazz and other genres, paving the way for future generations of musicians. Their innovative sound, characterized by a seamless blend of jazz improvisation and funk rhythms, continues to inspire artists across genres.

The Crusaders' legacy is marked by their musical versatility, their ability to evolve with the times, and their contributions to the development of jazz-fusion. Their recordings remain influential, and their impact on both jazz and popular music is undeniable.

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