Crusaders Jan. 29, 2005
Crusaders and One at Cerritos Center
By Glen Creason
The Crusaders conquered the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday night with a group of musicians so polished and professional it was easy to take excellence for granted. Cruising on all six cylinders the sextet lead by originals Wilton Felder on sax and Joe Sample on keyboards roared through a first half of sounds defying their “smooth” designation on charts. Ray Parker Jr. on guitar and trombonist Stephen Baxter are not O.G’s but vital members along with Kendrick Scott on drums and strong bass man Nick Sample. Joe Sample is the clear leader and his charming patter aided the cause of cool from the first solid notes to the reluctant farewell amidst ecstatic applause of “the Thrill Is Gone” which was only true in the lyrics.
The veteran group could teach lessons on team play to the Lakers as no one man took the center stage and all performed beautifully. On “Creepin” Wilton Felder’s sensual, kinetic sax carried the tune but on “I Felt the Love” Joe Sample’s piano was an electric current charging up the band and crowd. “So Far Away” started out smooth but got nice and rough thanks to the trombone/sax interplay. High points were certainly “Way Back Home” which was alternately dreamy then exhilarating and the stirring guitar work by Ray Parker Jr. on “Put It Where You Want It” which really swung and provided probably the high point of the show to that point. All of the Crusader’s work was good and plenty and plenty good throughout.
Then something extra special happened with the arrival of Randy Crawford to the microphone and part two of the concert took off like a rocket ship filled with soulful emotion. The dynamic yet diminutive darling of Cerritos on this night was Ms. Crawford who put on a clinic in vocal artistry. Far from the vocal trapeze somersaulters of modern times Randy Crawford knows how to treat a lyric and just how much to hold a note until the listener feels the song. “Rio de Janeiro Blue” got the joint a little warm but “One Day I’ll Fly Away” just left a warm glow on the enraptured house. “Soul Shadows” had a sweet, percolating sensuality in a funk mode and “Street Life” caused such an audience commotion you just knew La Crawford could do no wrong. Everything she touched with her pipes on this night turned to gold. Closing her eyes, gathering her thoughts getting a deep feeling of the music she then translated this into her restrained, emotional style of singing. Truly amazing was her passionate reading of the John Lennon classic “Imagine” which got a crowd thinking, feeling and really getting the perfectly topical meaning of the song. The explosive applause at its conclusion was thrilling. This was a hip, very enthusiastic, talking back, feeling the music crowd that spurred the group and singer on to higher heights as in the closing rush of encores including a non-too mournful “the Thrill Is Gone.” The Crusaders conquered at Cerritos but Randy Crawford won the hearts on this nice night of not all that smooth jazz at the Center.