The Pecan Tree is a collection of 11 compositions from master pianist/composer Joe Sample that were inspired by his Southeast Texas roots and influences. As a founding member of the pioneering quartet the Jazz Crusaders and as a solo artist, the pianist has created an impressive musical style based upon his early appreciation for jazz, gospel, soul, bebop, blues, Latin, and classical music. The Pecan Tree features many of those musical genres performed with such special guests as Lenny Castro and Paulinho da Costa on percussion, renowned R&B vocalist Howard Hewett, and newcomer Lizz Wright. Sample's Quintet kicks off the set with the title track, a Latin-tinged mid-tempo instrumental that features Sample's beautiful melodicism in harmony with the percussive mastery of Lenny Castro. The ensemble brings their creativity ingenuity to "Hot and Humid," a sweltering musical story of the region's weather condition. You can literally feel the heat from Sample's fiery piano chops. The soulful voice of Howard Hewett on "With These Hands" also makes this CD entertaining. He envelopes the listener with his gospel-tinged R&B tenor and holds you spellbound throughout this lovely ballad with his powerful range and heartfelt lyricism. The Pecan Tree is an apt tribute in the form of choice songs that describe Sample's true essence as a great musical storyteller and ranks alongside his smash hit Carmel with respect to his ability to deliver musical metaphors through smart phrasing and compelling melodies that reflect local settings.
AllMusic Review by Paula Edelstein