(PRA Records PRA-CD-61014)
In 1995 the former Crusader pianist played a festival at St Croix in the Virgin Islands. He was struck by the contrast between the tranquil setting and the brutal history of the place on the slave route. This suite of songs is the result.
A project which features not only Sample’s piano but also the drumming of Steve Gadd and the trombone-playing and production of Nils Landgren was never going to be a bleak affair; instead Sample and his cohorts stress the triumph of light over darkness, life over death.
The results are joyous and exuberant, the marvellous German big band bold and blustery, the soloists flying along on their trade winds. From the opening groove set down by Gadd and the piano riff Sample adds we know we’re in for a fine time, and when the full band adds its strongly swinging sections – the arrangements are by Jörg Achim Keller – the whole thing takes on a great big sunny glow.
The track titles – Buttermilk Sky, Rumfire, Gold In The Cane, Creole Eyes – say it all.
Joe Sample died last September, so this 2011 recording stands as a fitting reminder of his marvellous mix of jazz, blues, R&B and that inimitable “gulf coast funk”.
Categories: CD review