The Crusaders were a remarkably versatile group with a career has encompassed R&B, jazz, soul, and funk styles.
On August 31, 1940, was born Wilton Felder of the The Crusaders.
Wilton Felder spent over 30 years with the group known as the Jazz Crusaders (and later the Crusaders). In the mid-'50s while in high school in Houston, Felder, Joe Sample, and Stix Hooper became the founding members of the group which soon picked up Wayne Henderson as an additional member. Felder moved to Los Angeles with the other musicians in the late '50s and by 1961, they were recording for Pacific Jazz as the Jazz Crusaders. Felder's soulful blues-based tone and hard bop style fit well in the popular band. Around 1968, he started doubling on electric bass and has backed many top players outside of the group on that instrument. However, his own solo albums (for World Pacific in 1969, MCA, and Par) have generally found him cast as a third-rate Grover Washington, Jr. and have not caught on. Felder remained with the Crusaders until its end in the late '80s and had a reunion with Wayne Henderson in the '90s in a new version of the group.
Back in 1954, Houston pianist Joe Sample teamed up with high school friends tenor saxophonist Wilton Felder and drummer Stix Hooper to form the Swingsters. Within a short time, they were joined by trombonist Wayne Henderson, flutist Hubert Laws, and bassist Henry Wilson and the group became the Modern Jazz Sextet. With the move of Sample, Felder, Hooper, and Henderson to Los Angeles in 1960, the band (a quintet with the bass spot constantly changing) took on the name of the Jazz Crusaders. The following year they made their first recordings for Pacific Jazz and throughout the 1960s the group was a popular attraction, mixing together R&B and Memphis soul elements with hard bop; its trombone/tenor frontline became a trademark. By 1971, when all of the musicians were also busy with their own projects, it was decided to call the group simply the Crusaders so it would not be restricted to only playing jazz. After a few excellent albums during the early part of the decade (with guitarist Larry Carlton a strong asset), the group began to decline in quality. In 1975, the band's sound radically changed when Henderson departed to become a full-time producer. 1979's "Street Life" was a hit, but also a last hurrah. With Hooper's decision to leave in 1983, the group no longer sounded like the Crusaders and gradually disbanded. In the mid-'90s, Henderson and Felder had a reunion as the Crusaders but in reality only Joe Sample has had a strong solo career.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
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