The Jazz Crusaders

Soul Axess

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Since the breakup of the original Crusaders in the '80s, there have always been two factions battling for the name: the occasional Joe Sample-Wilton Felder projects billed as "the Crusaders," and another group of rotating smooth jazz musicians led by trombonist Wayne Henderson, usually called the Jazz Crusaders. This new fun-filled, very brassy, and stylistically diverse collection features Felder on only three tracks, but, not surprisingly, one of the best is "Down Yonder," a gospel-inflected midtempo funk number that joyfully recalls the old Crusaders' Southern roots. Elsewhere, it's more a gathering of contemporary greats, with Henderson forming tasty horn sections with guest saxmen Everette Harp (on the bouncy cover of Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed," also featuring a crisp Norman Brown guitar solo) and Ronnie Laws. Vibist Roy Ayers adds a touch of class to the Latin-flavored "Clima Suave (Smooth & Cool)," and Bobby Lyle (piano) and Dwight Sills (guitar) find ample room to shine on their numbers. The only drawback is Henderson's seeming need to join the hip-hop generation by adding several rap vocals, one of which pays obligatory homage to jazz heroes ("All That Jazz n Razz a Ma Tazz"). Along with an overreliance on pop covers, this sort of thinking makes Henderson's effort a far less rewarding experience than Sample and Felder's return to the front porch on the previous year's Rural Renewal. There are always glimmers of unique creativity, however. A cover of "Over the Rainbow" featuring vocalist Phillip Ingram features a cool Take 6-like intro, but then evolves into something much more pedestrian.

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