The Festival Album was the only live set by the Jazz Crusaders not recorded at the Lighthouse. As such, it is a compilation of performances recorded at the Pacific Jazz and Newport Festivals in 1966. The band had two different bass players during these gigs: Jimmy Bond was at the Newport Festival, while Herbie Lewis joined for the Pacific Jazz Festival. The band was well established everywhere but in New York, bewilderingly, and had recorded a dozen records, all of which were popular. And it's easy to see why. The version of Ken Cox's "Trance Dance" that opens the set showcases all of the band's strengths: solid hard bop chops and arrangements with a deep accent on the blues as it was emerging into soul-jazz. Soloists Joe Sample, Wayne Henderson, and Wilton Felder are all in fine form here. The deep groove on "Summer's Madness" by the trio is actually the signature piece of the Jazz Crusaders' sound at the time. Sample's "Freedom Sound," from the Pacific Jazz gig, illustrates the deep lyricism at the heart of the band's front line. The CD version contains two bonus tracks recorded later that year at Shelly Manne's Hole, with Buster Williams on bass. The sound gels here to make something truly unique, as evidenced by the funkier than funky "Wilton's Boogaloo," with killer solos by the saxophonist and Henderson, and a smoking beat by Stix Hooper. It's loose, in the pocket and freewheeling -- and over 11 minutes in length! The set closes with the driving "Half and Half" by Charles Davis, which is a vamp on "My Favorite Things," with a knotty arrangement, a sprightly tempo, and features some incredible snare and cymbal work by Hooper.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek