Our Newest Contributing Jazz Editor Mr. Eddie Carter of Atlanta..FOLLOW the JAZZTRACKS
Words from Publisher/Founder Robert J. Carmack
“welcome aboard Eddie its good to have your wise advice and keen knowledge when it comes to jazz.” R.J. Carmack
Eddie Carter – Southern Region – Jazz Editor ~ Eddie’s love for jazz began at the age of eight years old and learned all he could about the bands, groups, musicians and vocalists who created the music. He began writing reviews of CD’s and LP’s in 1991 for The Atlanta Audio Society and covered concerts including The Tri-C Jazz Fest, The Cincinnati Music Festival and The Atlanta Jazz Festival for WCLK’s On the Air Magazine and Strictly Jazz Magazine. He currently writes jazz reviews for The Atlanta Audio Club web page and three Facebook pages.
The Jazz Crusaders – Lighthouse ‘68
By Eddie Carter
My choice from the library to talk about this time is by four friends from Houston, Texas who began performing locally in 1956. They were originally known as The Swingsters and The Nite Hawks, but moved to Los Angeles in 1961, changed their name and became one of the best West Coast ensembles of the sixties, The Jazz Crusaders. I first discovered their music in 1962, the year I became a jazz fan thanks to one of my heroes on the airwaves, Chuck Lansing of WCUY 92.3 FM. He began his nightly show with The Young Rabbits, the last track on their second LP, Lookin’ Ahead (PJ-43/ST-43), also released that year. The song became a huge hit for the group and I loved the sound of the trombone-tenor sax front line. The quartet consists of Wayne Henderson on trombone; Wilton Felder on tenor sax; Joe Sample on piano; Stix Hooper on drums with Jimmy Bond, Victor Gaskin, and Herbie Lewis filling the bass chair on their records during the decade. Lighthouse ’68 (ST-10131) documents the group performing live at one of the premiere West Coast clubs, The Lighthouse Café, in business since 1949 and now a multi-genre venue which features jazz twice weekly. The bassist joining the quartet on this date is Buster Williams and my copy used in this report is the original 1968 US Stereo release.
The set opens with Oogo-Boo-Ga-Loo, an infectiously danceable audience grabber by Stix Hooper which begins with a lovely introduction by the trio, then blossoms into a sanctified styled theme treatment. Wilton goes to work first with a soulfully flavored, funky performance that calls to mind the sound of tenor man Willis Jackson and will have you tapping your toes and wanting to get up and dance. Joe takes over for a brief performance of irresistibly appealing phrases on the closer, leading to the theme’s reprise and audience’s appreciative applause. Eleanor Rigby by John Lennon and Paul McCartney is one of The Beatles most famous and recorded compositions. The quintet’s rendition does the song proud with a mid-tempo version which begins with them exploring the melody collectively. Sample is the song’s only soloist and he gives an extended performance of dazzling melodic lines which are consistently creative and exquisitely presented.
The tempo moves up for Native Dancer, the first of two contributions by Buster Williams which gets off to a roaring start with a nimble melody presentation. The aggressive opening statement by Joe moves swiftly through each verse like a musical twister, then comes Wayne who makes his first solo appearance next with a jubilant spirit during his performance which is remarkable. Wilton steps into the spotlight next for a swinging reading of limitless energy. Buster takes over for the finale with a delightful interpretation that is a model of spontaneous construction, showing off his agility as an improviser and extraordinary inspiration as a composer effectively. Sample’s Never Had It So Good starts the second side with an easy spirited beat that leads us back to church with a bit of boogaloo in the imaginative display of harmony during the group’s opening melody. The solo order is Felder, Henderson and Sample, and each man preaches their part of this sermon weaving a series of rhythmic ideas which swing comfortably to the delight of their extended congregation, the Lighthouse audience.
The Emperor, also by Williams takes us back to straightforward bop with the solos in the same order as the previous tune. Wilton starts the soloing with a passionately personal opening statement with each phrase beautifully articulated as he weaves gracefully in unison with the stunning foundation provided by Joe, Buster and Stix. Wayne sustains the relaxing beat with an attractive reading possessing a great amount of warmth and excitement. Joe makes a succinct statement with a full-bodied interpretation of finesse which is skillfully performed. Buster eases into the final interpretation with a performance as mild as a smooth sherry and a sound that goes straight to the heart. The album ends with John Coltrane’s Impressions, taken at breakneck speed with an invigorating introduction by the trio and theme statement led by the horns. Henderson takes off first with a jet-propelled interpretation followed by Felder who infuses the second solo with searing fire for an energetic workout. Sample comes next with an exhilarating performance of fierce intensity and Stix exchanges a few clever comments with both horns prior to the effervescent ending.
Three years after this album was recorded the quintet would shorten its name to The Crusaders, moving towards Jazz-Fusion, Jazz-Funk and Smooth Jazz. Their biggest hit would come four years after Henderson left the group to become a record producer in 1979 with Street Life (MCA Records MCA 3094) featuring Soul vocalist Randy Crawford. The remaining members would stay together until 1983 when Hooper left to pursue a solo career. In 1991, the surviving members Sample and Felder released what would be their final album as The Crusaders, Healing The Wounds (MCA Records 09638 – GRP 9638). In 1995, Wayne Henderson revived The Jazz Crusaders name for a CD-album, Happy Again (Sin-Drome Records SD 8909). Henderson who suffered from diabetes, passed away from heart failure on April 5, 2014 at age seventy-four. Joe Sample passed away five months later on September 12, 2014 from Mesothelioma and Wilton Felder passed away one year later on September 27, 2015 from Multiple myeloma, both were seventy-five years old. Stix Hooper and flutist Hubert Laws who (I didn’t know was a founding member) left the group in 1960 to attend The Juilliard School of Music are the only surviving members of the original group.
Dino Lappas, the engineer on Lighthouse ’68 has also worked on their second live album, Live at The Lighthouse ’66 (PJ-10098/ST-20098); their fourth and final live album, Lighthouse ’69 (World Pacific Jazz – Pacific Jazz ST-20165); The Three Sounds Live at The Lighthouse (BLP 4265/BST 84265) a year earlier in 1967 and also in 1972 on Elvin Jones Live at The Lighthouse (BN-LA015-G) and Grant Green Live at The Lighthouse (BN-LA037-G2) on Blue Note. The sound quality is splendid throughout with plenty of clarity across the frequency band of treble, midrange and bass. This is particularly noticeable with a good set of headphones; the benefit is the richness and detail of each instrument and specifically Buster Williams’ bass which is outstanding. If you only know of this talented group of musicians from their records as The Crusaders, I invite you to audition Lighthouse ’68 during your next vinyl hunt for a spot in your jazz library. The album will transport you back in time to that intimate Hermosa Beach venue, The Lighthouse Café to hear The Jazz Crusaders at the top of their game playing some of the best Hard-Bop and Post-Bop you’ll hear! The last vinyl pressing of Lighthouse ’68 (APBL-2312) was issued by Applause Records in 1982 and is out of print. The CD-album released in 2004 by Pacific Jazz Records adds four additional tracks to the LP track listing, Cathy The Cooker by Wayne Henderson; Shadows by Buster Williams, Tough Talk by Stix Hooper, Joe Sample and Wayne Henderson, and Third Principle by Wilton Felder, and is to my knowledge out of print as well!
Cathy The Cooker, Happy Again, Healing The Wounds, Elvin Jones at The Lighthouse, Grant Green at The Lighthouse, Dino Lappas, Live at The Lighthouse ’66, Lighthouse ’69, Shadows, Street Life, Third Principle, Tough Talk – Source: Discogs.com
Jimmy Bond, Randy Crawford, Wilton Felder, Victor Gaskin, Wayne Henderson, Stix Hooper, Hubert Laws, Herbie Lewis, The Julliard School of Music, Joe Sample
© 2018 by Edward Thomas Carter