The Artistry of… Joe Sample

The sound was what came out of a foray into a kind of jazz that hit a little sly and a little harder. It showed off its muscle in a hybrid of the bebop sound that lived as if it owned the 1950s and ’60s. The sound was Joe Sample and the Jazz Crusaders, who later became the Crusaders. Bluesy, and textured with rhythm and groove, the sound was known as bop.

The Jazz Crusaders’ album was Freedom Sound, and in many ways, the soundscape of the recording, and the name itself, defined its core. The musical adventure evolved as the band met the 1970s and brought with them an even funkier and danceable groove. The appeal continued to grow and the music-making included takes on contemporary pop hits of the day.

The soundscape straddled bluesy jazz and jazzy pop; unashamedly contemporary, it ruffled some purist critics but continued to solidify a sonic definition for Sample and the band. With a funkier sound, a new emphasis on danceable rhythms and the addition of songs by the Beatles and others to their repertoire, the Crusaders displeased many critics but greatly expanded their audience. Sample’s signature keyboard playing can also be heard on tracks by Joni Mitchell, Marvin Gaye, Tina Turner, Steely Dan, and B.B. King.

At the core is groove: hypnotic and always very hip.