Wherein I put together three songs, much like a DJ. I usually put a rock jam together. But why not some jazz? No reason. (Pictured above, saxophonist John Klemmer.)
The Jazz Crusaders started out in the 1960’s, their sound rooted in “hard bop, with an emphasis on R&B and soul.” (Interesting combination.) One of the co-founders, keyboardist Joe Sample was as much as anyone, their leader. Later on, they shortened their name to The Crusaders and adopted a funkier, more fusion-based sound.
Joining them in the early Seventies and throughout the decade was ace studio guitarist Larry Carlton. Carlton continued doing studio work, most notably for Steely Dan. That’s him doing the blazing work on “Kid Charlemagne,” one of my Top Ten Guitar Solos.
This song, “Spiral,” is from their 1976 album Those Southern Knights and it just cooks. Carlton’s first solo kicks in at 1:30 and it’s one of his absolute best. Other guys I know who are learning jazz guitar want to play like Wes Montgomery. I want to play like this guy. Sample throws in a nice keyboard jam after that. (Listen to how the bass and drums push this thing along, “Pops” Popwell and Stix Hooper respectively.)
After that, Carlton comes in and holds a note for about an hour. Then the funk machine takes over around 4:40 with some bass that would make Jaco proud. The horns come in around 5:23, taking this hard-charging funk/jazz fest out. Another song I never get tired of. S-mo-kin!
Julian “Cannonball” Adderly was an alto jazz saxophonist who grew out of that same hard bop era as The Crusaders. Adderly joined Miles Davis in the late Fifties and was one of two saxophonists (the other being John Coltrane), on Miles’ seminal Kind of Blue album.
Cannonball went on to a successful career as a bandleader which included his brother Nat on cornet. In 1966, he released an album called, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at ‘The Club.’ (It wasn’t really recorded at a club but at a recording studio with an invited audience.) The title song was written by his keyboardist Joe Zawinul, who went on to co-found the great fusion band Weather Report.
“Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” is a fine, funky, slow-simmering, jazzy tune that became a surprise hit and received the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance – Group or Soloist with Group in 1967. The invited crowd is a godsend as they really add to the overall loose party feel of the thing:
John Klemmer is a Chicago-bred saxophonist who started playing when he was eleven years old. Too young (born 1946) to have been part of the late 50’s jazz resurgence, he was one of the early adopters of jazz-rock with his 1969 album Blowin’ Gold.
He toured all over the world, veering neatly back and forth between jazz, jazz-rock and what some call “smooth jazz.” In the Eighties, he did an album with the aforementioned Joe Sample.
In 1976, Klemmer released the album Barefoot Ballet. The ubiquitous Larry Carlton is on acoustic guitar. This song fits neatly into the smooth jazz category which I tend to think of as jazz without the rough edges. But Klemmer is, I think, so well-respected that he could pull this off and not get dissed for it by the jazz purist crowd.
The title tune is a lush, sensuous number and I use that word advisedly. If this song doesn’t get your significant other in the mood, nothing ever will:
Fun side note: The Crusaders’ Joe Sample, Wilton Felder, and Larry Carlton, and John Klemmer have all played on Steely Dan albums. That’s Klemmer’s beautiful, ethereal solo you hear on “Caves of Altamira,” from The Royal Scam. Sample plays on the album Aja, Felder as far back as Pretzel Logic. The Dan knew good players when they heard them.