Joe Sample’s recent passing brought up a small debate about whether he or his group The Crusaders ever played Jazz music.
The debate seems unfair to me since The Crusaders resolved the issue for audiences long ago by removing the “Jazz” prefix from the group’s original name.
Perhaps forcing groups into a specific genre helps to bring order to your own little chaotic world, but don’t you think that doing so kills your chances of discovering new music that exists outside your defined lane? Don’t get me wrong, genre misrepresentation isn’t cool either. Artists who call themselves Classic Jazz musicians but really sound like Richard Elliot should be pushed off a sidewalk—(laughing) and not just because they lied…
I’ll never forget the time I saw this album from Incognito in a record store’s Pop Music bin. I more-or-less asked the sales clerk why did the store just blow every opportunity to sell the album by hiding it from fans, and he told me the store didn’t know whether to call Incognito Jazz, Soul or Dance Music.
But calling them Pop was the solution…?
Placing music into neatly labeled boxes is not a practice I personally believe in, but if you shared a pot of tea with me one afternoon and asked me what type of music I think Joe Sample plays, I’ll give you an answer that may sound confusing: Groove.
Living inside my musical head would tell you that Groove combines many so-called genres—a concept that doesn’t communicate well in blog posts, which is why I reluctantly use labels when I talk music with you. But what the hell, I’ll try to explain Groove this afternoon.
Groove has the spontaneity of Jazz; the urgent nastiness of Funk; the feel-good rhythmic bounce of Gospel, including its call-and-response; the beautiful, husky phrasing of Soul; the swing of Rock and Roll; the occasional structure of Blues; and let’s not forget the booty-shaking charm of House, Disco or other dance music forms.
Groove also integrates geographic regions with ease. Much of its rhythms can be traced to Africa, but Groove’s roots reach out to nourish Salsa, Samba, Chicano…
Groove can incorporate Indian, Arab or Persian music architectures without a hiccup. Morricone and Schifrin also fit comfortably in the Groove family.
When I hear John Coltrane playing a flurry of bars within a familiar Blues frame, “Groove” is the first word that comes to mind.
When John McLaughlin and Vernon Reid hit your ears with a stream of 32nd notes, that’s Groove.
Rick Wakeman’s organ blurring the line between Prog Rock and Jazz Fusion? Groove.
Gilberto Gil? Mongo Santmaria? Marcos Valle? Fela? Nana Vascocelos? Joe Bataan? Sly & Robbie? Charles Stepney? Jimi Tenor & Kabu Kabu? Groove.
B.B. King playing with Joe Sample, The Crusaders and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra? Hell yeah, that’s Groove.
Sample is one of Groove’s saints. He understood that good music didn’t need a label. The music simply had to be good.
By the way, I just gave you an idea of the song stuck in my head two paragraphs ago. With a gorgeous joint below…