Cover Story: A Brief History of Joe Sample and the Crusaders
As chronicled in this week's cover story, there's a reason why Joe Sample is Texas Southern University's artist-in-residence at the school's jazz studies program -- and why he may be able to reinvent TSU's disgraced reputation.
Sample, a Fifth Ward native and Phillis Wheatley High School graduate who came back to his hometown of Houston in 2001, is one of the most accomplished pianists in modern music.
In 1958, Sample and the members of the Modern Jazz Sextet (Wilton Felder, Stix Hooper, Wayne Henderson, Henry "La La" Wilson and Hubert Laws) ditched Houston to try to make it big in Los Angeles. Times were exciting yet hard, remembers Sample.
"We just took off one night and left here," he says. "Once we got there, I remember staying for a while at the house of Stix Hooper's aunt and uncle. Four of us shared one room with one bed and two mattresses on the floor. Man, we were just young and very hungry."
All but Laws would form the Jazz Crusaders (the name was an ode to percussionist Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers). In 1961, the band released its first album, the hard bop-centric Freedom Sound.
Eventually, the Jazz Crusaders would become the Crusaders. In 1971, that band -- featuring saxophonist Felder, trombonist Henderson, drummer Hooper, keyboardist Sample, and guitar and bass contributions from Arthur Adams -- would release Pass the Plate (Chisa), an accessible soul/jazz/funk album with rock and pop crossover potential.