Crusaders - Rural Renewal - Musical renewal for the Crusaders

2006-03-29 18:33

While these were unchallenging but nonetheless capable middle of the road mainstream jazz moods for sure, they were acres away from the commercial soul funk fusion of their 70s output. Of course, by now they'd removed "Jazz" from their name, which may have alienated the purists, but proved to be a savvy marketing move that was tailor-made for the smooth jazz explosion of the 80s and 90s.

It's something of a surprise then to find Rural Renewal eschewing the saccharine excesses of the idiom, for an inspired set of fusion fuelled jazz funk. With 70s producer Stewart Levine back on board, original members Jose Sample (keyboards), Stix Hooper (drums) and Wilton Felder (sax) relish their rediscovered improvisational opportunities ("Shotgun House Groove"). It's a more than significant fact, which translates any ostensible moments of sophisticated quiet storm kitsch ("Goin' Home") into a spontaneously seamless melting pot of laid back blues ("Creepin'"), funk ("The Territory") and elegiac R&B hued jazz moods ("A Healing Coming On"). With cameos from Eric Clapton (guitar), and Donnie McClurkin and Sounds of Blackness bringing their own idiosyncratic sheen to the party, Rural Renewal makes for an unexpectedly rewarding listen.

Back in the 60s the Jazz Crusaders earned their chops with a slick 'n stylish twist on West Coast cool jazz.

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