The core band of the Crusaders--Wilton Felder on tenor saxophone and bass, Joe Sample on keyboards, and Stix Hooper on drums--first got together in high school in the 1950s to play modern jazz. Throughout their early career as the Jazz Crusaders, they emphasized the roots side of hard bop with strong infusions of funk, soul, and gospel, making them naturals for the rise of fusion. They reached the peak of their success in the 1970s on a series of GRP records that provides the sources for this Finest Hour collection. The band had become increasingly electronic and studio-oriented, and the result is instrumental R&B that effectively mixes Felder's powerful tenor with Hooper's strong rhythmic grooves and Sample's layered keyboards and arrangements. The early tracks get additional solo contributions from trombonist Wayne Henderson and guitarist Larry Cramer, while Randy Crawford's vocal adds another dimension to the extended "Street Beat." Sample's ballad "It Happens Everyday" shows just how lyrical the band could get.
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