The Crusaders February 17, 2007
Crusaders Show the Way at Cerritos
By Glen Creason
Leader Joe Sample could not contain himself about half way through the Crusader’s action-packed concert on Saturday night and unloaded on the state of the music “business.” He used the words “fools” a couple of times and heatedly decried a certain label’s failure to promote the group’s CD made in the mid 90’s. Then Joe and the Crusaders gave proof positive that the fool appellation was fitting when they put some fine edges on a rambunctious tune called “Viva the Funk.’ It was a perfect example of why the Crusaders still draw big crowds and make stirring music that brings folks to rocking in their seats. What the Crusaders don’t have is fancy sets, showy costumes, dramatic lights, smoke machines or musical histrionics. What they do have is a superb, veteran band that knows the ropes and concentrates only on doing their songs justice. They came to the Performing Arts stage in jeans and t-shirts, among scattered, vintage instruments and real wire hookups then played from their solid repertoire with passion and joy. The only surprise might have been the add-in of drummer Steve Gadd who was truly exceptional along with the young son of the leader named Nick Sample thumping up a storm on bass. It is a given that sax-man Wilton Felder, Guitar-wizard Ray Parker Jr. and piano maestro Joe Sample will sparkle but on this night the bass and percussion were really at a high level.
The fellas chose from a short list of Crusader gems and pleased the big crowd with a first-half set of purely instrumental materials including “Free as the Wind,” “Night Crawler,” Styx Hooper’s “I Felt the Love” and a memorable “Ballad for Joe” that included a deluxe guitar solo by Parker. Joe Sample would begin with a sweet piano intro then toss the lead over to one of Wilton Felder’s idiosyncratic sax readings or trombonist Nils Langren’s inspired horn journeys. The aforementioned “Viva the Funk” spiced by a Langren ear-opening foray was a perfect example of the Crusaders engine firing on all cylinders. The well-warmed band finished with the lyrical “So Far Away” as the gentlemen left the audience wanting more at intermission.
The second half was like another concert altogether. It began with the smooth groove of “Spiral,” roared on with the spirited “the Territory” and satisfied everybody with the classic “Way Back Home.” Then songstress Randy Crawford joined the band and things actually got better than the very good it had been all night. Ms. Crawford is a veteran, singer’s singer and her sweet yet powerful vocals blended into the Crusader sound like good scotch and soda.” Rio de Janeiro Blue,” “San Francisco Morning,” and the beautiful “I’ll Fly Away” demonstrated why this lady has such a fine reputation. However, her deeply moving “Imagine” (despite crowd yahoos talking throughout the piece) and the achingly bittersweet “When Your Life Was Low” just stunned the huge crowd into rare silence. Quiet they were not when she busted out the old favorite “Street Life” and the percolating encore of “Feeling Good” that put a nice glow on a very good show.