Joe Sample Day

February 1, 1939 – September 12, 2014

A tribute to the Jazz Crusader keyboardist

Pianist and keyboardist Joe Sample was born on February 1, 1939, in Houston, Texas.

Sample began playing piano when he was five, forming a group in high school with tenor-saxophonist Wilton Felder and drummer Stix Hooper whom they called the Swingsters.

He studied piano at Texas Southern University where he met trombonist Wayne Henderson and flutist Hubert Laws, expanding the group which was renamed the Modern Jazz Sextet.

By 1960 the quintet (with several different bassists but without Laws) became the Jazz Crusaders, moved to Los Angeles, and soon signed with the Pacific Jazz label.

The Jazz Crusaders, with its distinctive trombone-tenor frontline, combined Texas soul with hard bop, becoming a popular attraction throughout the 1960s.

Wanting to evolve more into R&B and pop, by the late 1960s the group shortened its name to the Crusaders, continuing as a core quartet after Henderson left in the early 1970s and having a hit with “Street Life.”

By then Sample, who was doubling on electric keyboards, was also a busy studio musician in addition to having a solo career.

The Crusaders lasted until 1987 (having a few later reunions) while Sample spent more time on his own career, playing music ranging from crossover to bop, even paying tribute to Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, and James Reese Europe on his 2004 album Soul Shadows, a decade before his death at the age of 75.

Joe Sample is featured with a trio in 2000 performing “Ashes To Ashes.”


Joe Sample, piano
Jay Anderson, bass
Larry Aberman, drums

-Scott Yanow


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