By the mid-70’s, the funk had become a household word. It was also coming from all directions. Even fusion groups and former jazz bands were getting their hands on the funk. Take a group like The Crusaders. Originally formed as the Jazz Crusaders, they played in a mostly hard-bop jazz style that was mixed with R&B and soul throughout the 60s. But by 1971, they had changed their name to The Crusaders, included electric guitar and bass into their musical palette, and things began to change, both artistically and commercially. With the release of the album Old Socks New Shoes…New Socks Old Shoes, the name Jazz Crusaders was officially retired, but the sound had begun to change. With the release of Crusaders 1 in 1971, The Crusaders were off and running. By 1974, their sound was a commercial and artistic hit. The album release from that year, Southern Comfort, contains one of the funkiest songs this group ever cut, and it is today’s Funky Friday jam.
Get ready for the “Stomp And Buck Dance.”
The four original members of the Jazz Crusaders (Wilton Felder, Wayne Henderson, Joe Sample and Nesbert “Stix” Hooper) had been playing together for close to twenty years by the time this song was released. With the addition of guitarist Larry Carlton as a now full-time member, the band was at the peak of its powers. Southern Comfort was one in a run of albums through 1976 where the group was in fine form, with its version of funk finding a larger audience than their previous jazz dates ever did.
This particular song features the band’s two pronged horn line (Henderson on trombone, Felder on saxophone), Sample on keyboards, Carlton’s guitar and Felder also doubling on bass (though Robert “Pops” Popwell would eventually take over bass duties both on tour and album) and Hooper’s drum work gave the funk a more jazzy side and inspired musicians for years after their high point. It wouldn’t be long before the group would begin to decline though: Henderson would leave to focus strictly on production work (notably with Ronnie Laws), and once he left the band’s sound was never the same. While Street Life from 1979 was a success (mostly due to the Randy Crawford sung title track), it appeared to be more like one last great moment. When Hooper left in 1983, the Crusaders were effectively over. Carlton and Sample focused on well-received solo careers; Felder had his own solo career but wasn’t quite as successful. Henderson would reunite with Felder and Carlton and record a few albums under the Jazz Crusaders name in the 1990s. Sample, Felder and Hooper got together in 2003 to record Rural Renewal, the last Crusaders album.
But for a time in the early to mid 1970s, the Crusaders showed the way with a funky fusion of the jazz they started out playing with an emphasis on soul and R&B. Their way with the groove was something that set them apart from a lot of bands of the era. I hope you enjoy “Stomp And Buck Dance”, and that you have a great Friday.