JAZZ Joe Sample, Jazz Cafe, London
Nick Coleman drank in the eclectic sound of the Texan pianist's subtle funk
Saturday 24 February 1996
Still, there's no avoiding the issue. The music of Joe Sample, pianist and musical hub of Texan fusion institution the Crusaders, is both funky and elegant, and so strenuously contained that loud language ought not to do. That kind of discourse can be left to Sample himself, who turned up in Camden in an unseasonal shirt and behaved for the most part like a lion with sore whiskers.
"This one's to demonstrate how screwed up the Eighties were," he roared to introduce the one unrestrained piece of the evening, "Egomania Mambo". He followed that with an anecdote about voodoo magicians in his native Frenchtown rolling bones to fool patronising speculators into drilling oil holes in places where there is no oil. "I wanted to call this one 'Bones Bullshit'," he yelled, "but you can't call a song 'Bones Bullshit', so I called it 'Bones Jive'."
In fact, you could call a song that if you were in, say, Sham 69. But Joe Sample is in the Crusaders and writes music that boils the traditions of African-American music down into an elegantly funky yet potent residue. The big name-checks on his new album, Old Places, Old Faces, are for Clifton Chenier, Louis Armstrong and Fats Domino, but the feeling in the vapour arising from its nubby themes is predominantly that of John Coltrane, the avatar of avant-garde jazz in early-Sixties modal mode. So "Bones Jive" it is, then, and a fine, rolling credit-scroll of a piece it makes.
The trio at the Jazz Cafe was completed by a brace of New Yorkers: Jay Anderson on bass and Lenny Castro, in an arbour of drums, cymbals and things that go zing. Between the three of them they delivered a desperately close ensemble set that seldom sped but always seemed loaded up with torque. Sample's is music of tension and release, pulse and detonation; music not to be exhibited so much as transmitted by traction with the elements. Hence, perhaps, Anderson's schematic approach to his bass parts. He plays funk lines, he salsas, he blues-walks; he rarely moves off line. Castro and Sample do that, the former with splashes, trills and interesting popping sounds; his leader with the most generously subtle touch in his field.
They cruised the back catalogue for an hour before getting on to the new album. But it was an ancient standard, "Stormy Weather", that had an old Jamaican at the back gasping and going through his repertoire of gravelly advocations. "Yes, Joe. Play it," he snorted, not over a sumptuous run at the tinkly end of the keyboard but at one sudden dying cadence, mid-range, that came and went, almost imperceptibly, like a bird falling in the distance.
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 2 What supermodels really think about posing in the nude
- 3 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 4 Black teen in critical condition after store employee 'shoots him for stealing 79-cent pack of cookies'
- 5 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
This is surely the best way to watch Jaws
Amy Winehouse film director: 'I wanted to show the fun, bright-eyed girl we didn't know'
James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
Contemporary art is a fraud, says top dealer
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture