Pianist Joe Sample — who died on September 12 at the age of 75 — was a critical link to both the glories of hard bop and the perils of smooth jazz. His career will principally be remembered as a founding member of the Jazz Crusaders (ultimately just “The Crusaders”), a band he described as being “fathers of jazz-funk-fusion.” While his musical contributions are noteworthy, I also remember him for an altogether different reason.
In 1974, The Crusaders were all over the radio. In the San Francisco Bay area (where I lived at the time), their music — particularly their arrangement of Carole King’s “So Far Away” and a sweet ballad called “Way Back Home” — was in heavy rotation on the adult contemporary formatted KSFO-AM as well as on the era’s alternative rock giant KSAN-FM. In record industry parlance, they had “crossed over” into multiple formats. The Crusaders were “huge.”
In addition to being an important musical influence during...
September 18th, 2014