Street Life – The Jazz Crusaders (Live)
From his formative years in the Lone Star Republic (Texas) to his present international recording artist status, multi-instrumentalist and producer/composer Wayne Henderson is identified by his ebullient persona and scintillating trombone style. Without sounding rhapsodic, we’re also compelled to emphasize that Henderson’s effervescence, combined with the legendary Jazz Crusaders many smash hit-recordings, is in large part responsible for the cosmic success of these musical icons since the group’s inception in 1961.
More than forty-years ago, Wayne Henderson, along with childhood buddies Wilton Felder, Joe Sample, and Nesbert “Stix”¨ Hooper, formed the nucleus of the Jazz Crusaders/Crusaders. As a fledgling, attending Houston’s Phyllis Wheatley Jr. High School, the precocious Henderson took the lead in sculpting the group’s dazzling style into one that was ground breaking, with considerable eclectic overtones. By fusing elements of jazz, funk, soul, R&B, rock, Latin, and gospel, an iridescent sound emerged with such impact that a musical revolution was unearthed. As the quartet’s cornerstone, Henderson’s objective was to accentuate the straight-ahead (often restrained) jazz sound with other musical styles that, ironically, are the offspring of generic, or classic jazz. As a result of exposure to all of the above-mentioned forms while growing up, Henderson’s transcendent appreciation for all musical elements compels him to subconsciously or otherwise express those nuances in live performances and on recordings.
Back in the day, when Henderson first conceived of the name Jazz Crusaders and the idea of forming a band, the group filtered through a number of musicians, including the first pianist for the group, James “Sonny¨ Reason, followed by keyboardist Alvis Harvey, Flutist Hubert Laws, and La La Wilson on bass. Along with saxophonist Felder and drummer Hooper, Sample was later added to the mix as pianist. The group eventually became known as the Black Board Jungle Kids, Swingsters, Modern Jazz Sextet, and Nite Hawks; then came the designation invented by Henderson and the name of choice, Jazz Crusaders – under which they proceeded to record a number of projects for World Pacific Jazz (their first label), including their first and the ever popular Freedom Sound album. Their second album, which enjoyed widespread success, is uniquely titled Looking Ahead. The group went on to record for Blue Thumb, ABC, and GRP labels in the 60s and 70s.
It was in 1975 that Wayne (“Big Daddy¨) as he is sometimes called) Henderson went on hiatus from the group and augmented his career by producing and recording with other notable acts: Patti Austin, Jean Carne, Bill Withers, Ronnie Laws, Ramsey Lewis, Steely Dan, Bobby Lyle, Everette Harp, Phillip Ingram, Nathan East, Lenny Williams, Rebbie Jackson, Marvin Gaye, B.B. King, the Jackson Five, Hiroshima, Hugh Masekela, Joni Mitchell, Wilton Felder, and Tina Turner, to mention a few. Some of these artists appear on Wayne’s newest album, which we will talk about in a minute. Most of Henderson’s independent projects were produced under his own LA based labels, At Home Productions and Angel City Records. A side point: Rebbie Jackson’s Centipede project, which Henderson co-produced with Michael Jackson, went nearly platinum with more than 900,000 records sold.