Joe Sample / David T. Walker

Swing Street Cafe

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After releasing three very successful solo albums of contemporary jazz in a row -- 1978's Rainbow Seeker, 1979's Carmel, and 1980's Voices in the Rain -- Crusaders' pianist Joe Sample decided that a return to his roots was necessary, and recorded this date with famed soul and jazz session guitarist David T. Walker and released this tribute to classic rhythm and blues. Interestingly, the date had actually been recorded between Rainbow Seeker and Carmel, but remained unreleased until 1981 because of the chart success of the previous albums and his sold-out touring dates as a solo act and with the Crusaders. Sample and Walker hired the best in the business and the rhythm section here is made up of Motown bassist James Jamerson and famed Capitol session drummer Earl Palmer. In addition, the pair hired a horn section comprised of Herman Riley, Al Aarons, John Kelson, and Ernie Fields, Jr. The material is made up of wonderfully articulated covers of R&B touchstones such as Ray Charles' "Hallelujah, I Love Her So," Jimmy Reed's "Honest I Do," Chuck Willis' "C.C. Rider," and Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk," to name a few. Produced by the Crusaders own production company, this date was recorded in two days and feels like its participants had a ball. Sample is at his most boisterous here, playing both Rhodes piano and upright, letting it just rip with both boogie-woogie runs, tough blues licks, and extended vamps (check his Professor Longhair New Orleans style barrelhouse piano on a cover of "Woke Up This Morning" where Walker lets loose too). Walker is an understated but brilliant guitarist in the same league with Phil Upchurch. He's a bit more meat and potatoes here; he's always funky and in the groove, but elegantly so. This adds a nice textural element to these otherwise hard swinging, gutbucket tunes. This album suffers from none of the production curses that doomed so much of '80s jazz and funk. It's merely a celebration by old friends of the music that shaped them.

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