Keyboardist Joe Sample and The Crusaders convey that right stuff, where contemporary and radio friendly jazz attains equal ground with the respective artists’ sparkling, jazz-centric solo jaunts. They merge funk, gospel, blues, jazz and R&B into a stylistic and distinct group sound, abetted by Sample’s somewhat legendary electric piano based phraseology. In effect, the group's jazz-fusion underpinnings cross various boundaries, sans the technical gymnastics witnessed by others. As this DVD presents The Crusaders’ 2003 performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in support of its 2003 album Rural Renewal.
Funk guitarist Ray Parker Jr. leads the band through his multi-million selling composition and mega-hit "Ghostbusters," while longtime Crusaders associate, vocalist Randy Crawford joins the group on four tracks to include the timeworn hit, "Street Life." Otherwise, Sample offers innuendos and historical information to the audience. But it’s the unit’s peppery grooves amid melodically rich genre-bending pieces which serve as the underlying foundation for its success.
Sample frequently reinvents a given melody line via his ringing Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer e-piano passages within the musicians good-timey demeanor. Crawford’s gorgeously rendered vocals during the up-tempo ballad titled "Soul Shadows," stands as one of the many highlights. While drummer Kendrick Scott shines as a near-flawless timekeeper, and serves as a worthy replacement for the ensemble’s original drummer Stix Hooper.
Saxophonist Wilton Felder’s spirited soul-jazz lines and punchy choruses with trombonist Stephan Baxter add to the vibrancy of this jubilantly performed set. And of course Felder and Sample are the only two founding members of a group that began back in 1960 under the moniker, The Jazz Crusaders. In addition, the film crew sustains a sense of fluidity and motion via its zooms, pans and distance shots. Sure enough, the artists loom as prophets of good cheer throughout.