The Jazz Crusaders At The Lighthouse // The Jazz Crusaders (Pacific Jazz PJ-57)

Leaving Laguna Beach for another beach, you travel almost an hour north towards to Los Angeles to the beach town of Hermosa Beach. Well, it’s supposed to be about an hour, but the traffic makes it more like an hour and a half. Pulling into the parking lot of The Lighthouse Cafe, you hear the rocking, soulful sounds of a jazz band wailing from within the club. It almost sounds like Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, but you know better, because you saw them on TV yesterday. It’s the newest West Coast band to crop up, and one of the youngest and freshest.

Shutting the door of your car, you realize it changed sometime during the drive up, for now you’re stepping out of a 1962 Chevy Bel Air, top down because it was a lovely summer drive up the coast, inching along in the traffic. Because it’s August and it’s 1962, you leave the top down and walk into the club. Money paid, you find a seat, order a Shirley Temple, and enjoy the sounds of the Jazz Crusaders.


The Music

The Tune: “Appointment In Ghana”

Recorded: 5 August, 1962 in Hermosa Beach, CA

Personnel:

  • Wilton Felder – Tenor Sax
  • Wayne Henderson – Trombone
  • Joe Sample – Piano
  • Victor Gaskin – Bass
  • Nesbert “Sticks” Hooper – Drums

Playing with soulful exuberance, The Jazz Crusaders were riding high that Sunday in August of 1962 when they recorded the music on this album. Just the previous day the group had made an appearance on Los Angeles DJ and hip jazz personality Frank Evans’ TV show, “Frankly Jazz”, had toured all over Southern California, and were sounding tighter than ever. Luckily, Richard Bock set up some microphones in the cozy confines of The Lighthouse and captured their sets, releasing the best on this album.

Back in the club, you nurse your second Shirley Temple, bobbing your head to the forceful music. Their set leans heavily on the blues, which, along with the overtly bluesy, soulful sound, can tend to get pleasantly monotonous. For their last tune of the night, they announce a Jackie McLean original, “Appointment In Ghana”, the only tune written by someone outside of the Crusaders that they’ve played this set. The group starts lazily enough before lighting into the song, almost as if to exclaim that they’re late for the appointment. Henderson’s trombone is succinct but expressive, yielding to Felder’s funky tenor sax. Felder digs into the tune, exploring the high reaches of his instrument, underlining the urgency of the appointment. The audience, you included, give him appreciative applause once he finishes his lengthy solo.

Joe Sample’s sly piano gradually takes center stage, playing mischievous calls and responses to himself as he waits for the applause to die down. Although Felder’s searing solo puts a lot of pressure on Sample, he decides to cool things down with his first solo chorus. Before you know it, however, he’s chasing the piano keys up and down the piano, building a great solo himself. Having said what he wanted to, he then signals that he’s done and just like that, the group plays the head before taking it out. Applause fills the club as one of the band members thanks the crowd. All in all, an exciting conclusion to an exciting set.

The Cover

Raggy Waltz Rating: C

It’s alright. Featuring a shot of the group (in color!!!) taken on what looks like the set of the television show ‘Frankly Jazz’, it’s not terrible, but it’s not great either. It’s just ok.

The Back

Photos of the band members, track listing, and the date of the recording all included?!? Wow. A funny thing to me though is that the bassist seems to keep getting the short end of the stick. Gaskin is listed on the front and his picture never appears on the album at all. Another amusing thing to me is how the word “live” usually had quotations around it when used during the 1950’s and 60’s.

The Vinyl

Pacific Jazz always had record labels that were understated and simple, in classy (or boring) black and silver. Pacific Jazz, along with Verve in the 1960’s, had the most simplistic and frankly unimaginative record labels of all time. My copy is an original, non deep groove and in mono. It sounds pretty clean, with the liveness and the energy of such a performance captured on the record.

The Place of Acquisition

Criminal Records in Atlanta, Georgia, frequently gets the most ink when Atlanta record stores are discussed. Whenever I’m in town, however, I like to head over to Wax N Facts, a short walk down the street from Criminal Records. I always find something interesting and good there, and almost always in better condition than at Criminal Records. On one of my early stops at Wax n Facts a few years ago, I found this record. I had heard of the group before and had watched their appearance on ‘Frankly Jazz’ on YouTube, so I grabbed it. It was $10, which I thought was fantastic since I was still a college student at the time. Wax N Facts: The underrated sleeper of Atlanta record stores!

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