It was Lionel Richie, while with the Commodores, who wrote a song with the phrase “easy like Sunday morning.” But if I were in charge of the dictionary that had to come up with a musical definition of that phrase, the song I’d choose is this great easy groover by the Crusaders (or as they were known when the song was released, the Jazz Crusaders).
The writer of today’s morning groove, Wilton Felder, passed away just last September. His was a career that many would envy. With his friends Joe Sample, Nesbert “Stix” Hooper and Wayne Henderson, they would eventually become the Jazz Crusaders, playing in a straight-ahead jazz style, but not afraid to tackle pop tunes like “Eleanor Rigby.” By the early 1970s, they had dropped the Jazz from their name, began playing music in a more soulful, funkier, rhythm and blues style and broadened their audience. At the end of the decade, “Street Life” widened that audience even further.
Felder also had a solo career outside of the group, but he was perhaps even more in demand as a session musician on the bass guitar. While he played the saxophone with the Crusaders (and sometimes doubled on bass too), he worked with such artists as the Jackson 5 (it’s his bass that is heard on “I Want You Back,” their first hit), as well as Joni Mitchell, Marvin Gaye and Billy Joel, among many others.
And while Junior Walker & his All-Stars had a hit with a vocal version of this song that referenced days gone by in the South, it is this version that I like the best. The song’s soulful, bluesy flow just sounds right for a Sunday morning. With Felder’s sax and Henderson’s trombone front line leading the way, I present “Way Back Home” as the morning groove for today.
Enjoy your Sunday, and as always, thanks for reading and listening.