|Birth name||Joseph Leslie Sample|
|Born||February 1, 1939|
Houston, Texas, U.S.
|Died||September 12, 2014 (aged 75)|
Houston, Texas, U.S.
|Occupation(s)||Singer, songwriter, composer|
|Labels||Blue Thumb, MCA, GRP, Warner Bros., Verve, ABC|
|Associated acts||Jazz Crusaders, Steely Dan, Michael Franks, Lalah Hathaway, India.Arie|
Joseph Leslie Sample (February 1, 1939 – September 12, 2014) was an American keyboardist and composer. He was one of the founding members of the Jazz Crusaders, the band which became simply the Crusaders in 1971, and remained a part of the group until its final album in 1991 (not including the 2003 reunion album Rural Renewal).
Beginning in the late 1960s, he enjoyed a successful solo career and guested on many recordings by other performers and groups, including Miles Davis, George Benson, Jimmy Witherspoon, B. B. King, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Anita Baker, and the Supremes. Sample incorporated jazz, gospel, blues, Latin, and classical forms into his music.
Sample was born in Houston, Texas, United States, the youngest son of Alexander Sample, a mail-carrier, and Agatha (née Osborne) Sample, a seamstress. Sample began to play the piano at the age of five. He was a student of the organist and pianist (Theodore or T.) Curtis Mayo.
In high school in the 1950s, Sample teamed up with friends saxophonist Wilton Felder and drummer "Stix" Hooper to form a group called the Swingsters. While studying piano at Texas Southern University, Sample met and added trombonist Wayne Henderson and several other players to the Swingsters, which became the Modern Jazz Sextet and then the Jazz Crusaders, in emulation of one of the leading progressive jazz bands of the day, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Sample never took a degree from the university; instead, in 1960, he and the Jazz Crusaders made the move from Houston to Los Angeles. He was a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.
The group quickly found opportunities on the West Coast, making its first recording, Freedom Sounds, in 1961 and releasing up to four albums a year over much of the 1960s. The Jazz Crusaders played at first in the dominant hard bop style of the day, standing out by virtue of their unusual front-line combination of saxophone (played by Wilton Felder) and Henderson's trombone. Another distinctive quality was the funky, rhythmically appealing acoustic piano playing of Sample, who helped steer the group's sound into a fusion between jazz and soul in the late 1960s. The Jazz Crusaders became a strong concert draw during those years.
While Sample and his bandmates continued to work together, he and the other band members pursued individual work as well. In 1969, Sample made his first recording under his own name; Fancy Dance featured the pianist as part of a jazz trio. In the 1970s, as the Jazz Crusaders became simply the Crusaders and branched out into popular sounds, Sample became known as a Los Angeles studio musician, appearing on recordings by Joni Mitchell, Marvin Gaye, Tina Turner, B. B. King, Joe Cocker, Minnie Riperton, Anita Baker and The Supremes. Sample was a founding member of the L.A. Express, which was started as the backing band for Tom Scott; however, both Sample and fellow Crusader Larry Carlton left after that group's first album. In 1975, Sample went into the studios with jazz musicians Ray Brown, on bass, and drummer Shelly Manne to produce a then state-of-the-art recording direct to disc entitled The Three. About this time Blue Note Records reissued some of the early work by the Jazz Crusaders as "The Young Rabbits". This was a compilation of their recordings done between 1962 and 1968.
The electric keyboard was fairly new in the 1960s, and Sample became one of the instrument's pioneers. He began to use the electric piano while the group retained their original name, and the group hit a commercial high-water mark with the hit single "Street Life" and the album of the same name in 1979. In 1978, he recorded Swing Street Café with guitarist David T. Walker.
The Crusaders, after losing several key members, broke up after recording Life in the Modern World for the GRP label in 1987. Despite the disbanding of the Crusaders, the members would join each other to record periodically over the years, releasing Healing the Wounds in the early 1990s. Felder, Hooper, and Sample recorded their first album, called Rural Renewal, as the reunited Crusaders group in 2003 and played a concert in Japan in 2004.
After Sample's A Fancy Dance (1969), he recorded several solo albums, including Sample This, produced by George Duke.
GRP also released Joe Sample Collection, and a three-disc Crusaders Collection, as testament to Sample's enduring legacy. Some of the pianist's recent recordings are The Song Lives On (1999), featuring duets with singer Lalah Hathaway, and The Pecan Tree (2002), a tribute to his hometown of Houston, where he relocated in 1994. His 2004 album on Verve, Soul Shadows, paid tribute to Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton, and pre-jazz bandleader James Reese Europe. In 2007, he recorded Feeling Good with vocalist Randy Crawford. In the mid-1970s, the Crusaders added guitarist Larry Carlton.
Sample appeared on stage at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 28 May 2000, playing keyboard solo on George Benson's "Deeper Than You Think". This concert was recorded and a DVD entitled George Benson: Absolutely Live was subsequently released. A studio version of "Deeper Than You Think" was recorded featuring Joe Sample in New York in May 1999 during sessions for a Benson collection that took the title Absolute Benson. Fans again believe there may have been other collaborations of Sample–Benson that remain in the vaults unreleased.
Some of Sample's works were featured on The Weather Channel's "Local on the 8s" segments and his song "Rainbow Seeker" is included in their 2008 compilation release, The Weather Channel Presents: Smooth Jazz II. Nicole Kidman sang his song "One Day I'll Fly Away" in the Baz Luhrmann film Moulin Rouge! (2001). The very popular "In All My Wildest Dreams", also from the 1978 album Rainbow Seeker, was sampled on Tupac's "Dear Mama", De la Soul's "WRMS's Dedication to the Bitty", Toni Braxton's "What's Good" and Arrested Development's "Africa's Inside Me".
His survivors included his son, bassist Nicklas Sample (with ex-wife Marianne), who is a member of the Coryell Auger Sample Trio featuring Julian Coryell and Karma Auger. He also left a wife, Yolanda, and three stepsons: Justin, Jamerson III and Jordan Berry.
|Fancy Dance [originally titled Try Us]||1969||Gazell|
|The Three (with Ray Brown, Shelly Manne)||1976||East Wind|
|Rainbow Seeker||1978||ABC/MCA; Blue Thumb|
|Carmel||1979||ABC/MCA; Blue Thumb|
|Voices in the Rain||1981||MCA Jazz|
|Swing Street Cafe (with David T. Walker)||1981||Crusaders; Verve|
|The Hunter||1983||MCA Jazz|
|Ashes to Ashes||1990||Warner Bros.|
|Did You Feel That?||1994||Warner Bros.|
|Old Places Old Faces||1996||Warner Bros.|
|Sample This||1997||Warner Bros.|
|The Song Lives On (with Lalah Hathaway)||1999||GRP|
|The Pecan Tree||2002||Verve|
|Creole Love Call (with Nils Landgren)||2006||ACT|
|Feeling Good (with Randy Crawford & Steve Gadd)||2007||PRA|
|No Regrets (with Randy Crawford & Steve Gadd)||2009||PRA|
|Live (with Randy Crawford, Steve Gadd & Nicklas Sample)||2012||PRA|
|Children of the Sun (with NDR Big band & Steve Gadd)||2014||PRA|
|Christmas with Friends (with India Arie)||2015||Motown|
With CreoleJoe Band
With Gene Ammons
With Kenny Burrell
With Michael Franks
With Milt Jackson
With Al Jarreau
With B.B. King
With Rod Stewart
With Natalie Cole
With Jerry Butler
With Marvin Gaye
With Harold Land
With Minnie Riperton
With Bobby Hutcherson
With Paul Anka
With Boz Scaggs
With George Benson
With Carmen McRae
With Joan Baez
With Tina Turner
With Brenda Russell
With Melissa Manchester
With Blue Mitchell
With Joni Mitchell
With Dion DiMucci
With Ringo Starr
With Martha Reeves
With Albert King
With Lalo Schifrin
With Michael Franks
With Randy Crawford
With Solomon Burke
With Eric Clapton
With Gloria Jones
With Johnny Rivers
With The Rippingtons
With Sonny & Cher
With Anita Baker
With Steely Dan
With Stanley Turrentine
With Dusty Springfield
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