The 1st Annual Joe Sample Episode of The Line-Up for 1-28-2011

Yes, it's that time of year again. February 1 is right around the corner so it's time for the Joe Sample episode of The Line-Up. Sample is the man whose career I have adored since I was a small child and I feel I owe it to him to celebrate his birthday every year. I always had when I grew up so it was only natural that I'd do the same with The Line-Up. Also, I rather like celebrating the birthdays of jazz musicians while they're still alive. Folks deserve their due recognition while they're here.

Joe Sample - Black and White (As Simple As)
My favorite Joe Sample album has to be 1996's Old Places Old Faces. The one time I was able to see him perform live was while he was touring around this album. I distinctly recall the cold night at Sunken Gardens, my sister clearly the youngest at that concert and still with some knowledge of the songs (I was 10 at the time). This album holds a special place in my heart.
Michael Franks - Chez Nous
I just realized that while I knew I would play some Michael Franks this week, I told someone at an event the other day that I'd play something from The Art of Tea, not Blue Pacific. Oops.
Anita Baker - Sometimes I Wonder Why
The songs Sample played on Baker's 1994 album, Rhythm of Love, always made me hear more of these two together. Fortunately that happened shortly after Baker's recent comeback. Sample played on every track of Anita Baker's 2005 album, Christmas Fantasy and it was 1) a very decent Christmas album with some choice cuts that one could listen to year round and 2) probably a better album than her actual comeback album, 2004's My Everything (which was still pretty damn good). Still, this track is a great ballad and a nice departure from the clearly 90s R&B sound (which has a time and place, generally I do love the rest of this album, though) that's all throughout Rhythm of Love.
Joe Sample - Invitation
I like to think Invitation is when Sample 1) started to become a true jazz historian, giving a different kind of credence to jazz standards that wasn't always present in his earlier work and 2) when Sample decided he could do whatever he wanted. My guess is Warner Bros. disagreed with him which is why he might have left the label soon after Old Places Old Faces.
The Crusaders - Street Life
This song was The Crusaders' biggest hit. If you don't know this song, get acquainted. Randy Crawford tears the walls down.
Freddie Hubbard - Crisis
While putting this show together, I wanted to make sure I was doing something truly different, so I actually decided to do some research (and by research, I mean combing through Joe Sample's credits page on allmusic.com. I knew I'd run across quite a few artists who would make me say, "Oh, I didn't know he worked with ______." This is one of those artists who caught my eye.
Donald Byrd - Where Are We Going?
Donald Byrd is another.
The Crusaders - Marcella's Dream
This is probably one of my favorite Crusaders songs. Plus, I like the ebb and flow I made in this week's soul set.
Joe Sample - Jitterbug Waltz
Once you get to Sample in the Aughts, he hits full blown historian mode. When I first heard his 2004 album, Soul Shadows, I just thought he was being a cranky old man. He's playing entirely by himself? He's playing old standards some folks have never even heard of? What the heck is he doing? But the more I listened to the album, the more I realized just how beautifully he was playing. How his general heavy-handed playing still gave each note a chance to breathe, even when there are many of them frantically put together. I thought this was a particularly good version of this classic standard, "The Jitterbug Waltz." He doesn't stray too far from the melody, he just plays with the time and the actual number of notes. It's playing in a classicist way but still doing something new. The more I listen to him now, the more I see he's not a cranky old man after all. That's why I love him.

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