Joe Sample & NDR Bigband
"Children of the Sun"
Pianist Joe Sample, who died last year, rose to fame with the Jazz Crusaders (later shortened to The Crusaders) but you've also probably heard his work on Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," Joni Mitchell's "Court and Spark," Tina Turner's "Private Dancer" and Steely Dan's "Aja." Sample also recorded numerous albums as a leader over the decades, but he saved the best for last.
In his brief liner notes, Sample places the origin of this music back two decades when, after performing at the St. Croix Jazz Festival, he stayed on the island for a few days. His wanderings took him to a peak from which he could see both the gorgeous blue sea and the ruins of slave quarters where Africans toiled in the sugar cane and rum industries. All of the tunes on "Children of the Sun" are written in tribute to those humans who worked in hell on an island paradise.
The aural pictures Sample paints in compositions like "Islands of the Mind," "Blue Abyss" and "I Wanna Go Home" are made even more vivid by the evocative arrangements of Jörg Achim Keller and the superb musicians of the Hamburg, Germany-based NDR Bigband. Along with some of the greatest musicians in Europe, Sample himself is at the keyboards, and long-time collaborator Steve Gadd is masterful on drums. — BY RON NETSKY