No Smooth Jazz at Leoness Cellars this Sunday
Smooth jazz flows through Temecula’s Wine Country resorts, restaurants and wineries these days, well, just like fine wine. Musicians playing other forms of jazz need not apply.
However, the smooth jazz genre will be absent Sunday at Leonesse Cellars in Wine Country where world-class straight ahead jazz pianist, Joe Sample will launch a summertime Friends & Wine concert series hosted by legendary R&B/Jazz artist, Ronnie Laws.
It will be the first time in about 10 years since the architect of the trend-setting Jazz Crusaders performed in Temecula. With the quartet and with the Crusaders no longer regularly active, Sample will be featured in a solo setting at Leoness Cellars, and he’s looking forward to it.
“I enjoy working alone. It gives me the freedom to create as I go along without having to allow for whatever a bass player or drummer may have in mind,” said Sample, 63, a SoCal resident since 1967 when he and the other three Crusaders left Houston in favor of Los Angeles. “From now on, you’ll see me recording more and more solo albums.”
When pushed for any other reason for wanting to record solo discs, Sample said he is appalled at the lack of drummers who play quietly enough to suit him. “There are times the drummers have been so loud, I couldn’t hear the piano,” Sample asserted. “A drummer who knows his role and plays accordingly is a valuable asset to a combo, but he becomes a liability when he drowns out the other musicians.”
Plainly, Sample pulls no punches in discussing jazz and those who make it. That includes smooth jazz, which he labeled “wall paper.” “I played smooth jazz in public just once and that was once too often,” said Sample with a hint of a laugh. “There’s no point to it…no beginning, no middle, and no end. It’s all the same.”
That would be in sharp contrast to the music Sample grew up with — he started playing a piano when he was three and eventually phased his early influences into creating the Crusader sound.
“We started as a trio when we were in high school,” referring to drummer Stix Hooper, “saxophonist Wilton Felder and me,” said Sample,” and we added trombonist, Wayne Henderson while we were at Texas Southern University and that’s pretty much how it stayed until we broke up in 1987.”
There were changes though. Before Henderson joined the combo, the trio was into hard bop and had a hit record while they were still in high school. However, Sample began to move the group in a new direction after Henderson joined the others by steering the band into a fusion between jazz and soul to create the Crusader sound. But even that was modified when Sample became one of the first pianists to switch to an electric keyboard.
At one time Sample, who leaves July 4 for a 17-day tour of Europe, wrote for the film and television industry, but no longer. He still writes, but now its music he plays in concerts that generally include numbers you’d hardly expect to be essayed by a pianist with his ear on the future. “You may be surprised to hear the music of Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and other pianists in the Jazz Hall of Fame,” said Sample.” Jazz didn’t begin with Crusaders and to understand where jazz has been gives you a greater appreciation for where it’s going.”
Written By: Cam Miller
WHEN: Sunday, 4:30 p.m.
WHERE; Leoness Cellars, 38311 De Portola Rd., Temecula
TELEPHONE: (951) 302-7601 ext 114