Sunday Jazz: RIP Joe Sample (1939-2014)

It’s been far too long since my last Sunday Jazz installment, but I’m compelled to post now to mourn the loss of one of my all-time favorite musicians — the great Joe Sample, who passed away yesterday at age 75.

Sample’s contributions to the music world are immeasurable, but primarily I will remember him both for his work with the Jazz Crusaders and for some of his great solo music. What once was contemporary jazz is now known (derisively by some) as smooth jazz.

Writers far better than I will have much more profound thoughts to share on Sample’s music, so I’ll just share some of my favorite moments from his long career.

First up is a fine Jazz Crusaders side, “Tortoise and the Hare,” from the group’s 1962 LP Lookin’ Ahead. It’s a prototypical slice of the particular brand of soul jazz Sample and his bandmates played so well.

Next up is my favorite selection from the next incarnation of the band, known by 1971 as just the Crusaders. It’s the title track from 1971’s Pass the Plate, and there is some wonderful Sample playing on here, both of a funk and gospel nature.

And finally, here’s the opening cut from Sample’s first solo album of the ’70s, 1978’s fantastic “Rainbow Seeker.” Again, call it smooth jazz if you must, but the groove and melody on this is hard to beat.

RIP Joe Sample, one of the all-time greats.