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Joe Sample/Randy Crawford: No Excuses

Keyboardist Joe Sample and singer Randy Crawford have been together for a long time. Sample worked on Crawford's debut album Everything Must Change back in 1976 and Crawford helped The Crusaders, to which Sample was a member, create a smooth jazz classic with her treatment of the title track of their 1979 albumStreet Life. She says, Joe Sample is a wonderful musician and a wonderful person. I kind of wanted to work with him before I ever met him because I was familiar with their records when he was part of the Jazz Crusaders. Getting to work with Joe is my dream come true and the fact that he admired my talent makes it an even better musical marriage. We traveled a lot of places and been on a lot of stages. I've gotten to go more places than I could have ever drempt for. Moscow, Japan, Australia, all over the place and we seem to satisfy our audiences with this wonderful, raw, fresh talent.

Sample also has the same thought about working with Crawford. He says, I always felt that Randy Crawford is an American treasure. And then I used to always wonder was I the only one who knows that? Randy is a great artist and most of her music is usually done on a very emotional and personal basis. Randy's music never, never really went into formula.

Following up on their 2006 collaboration release Feeling Good, Joe Sample and Randy Crawford have released their second CD No Regrets. Crawford says, we decided to make this kind of record because of the sparkness of the musicianship, and the songs are great songs. They're songs of yesteryear and songs of the day. Joe is our producer along with Tommy LiPuma. It's just treated very beautifully. There's something for everybody and for every generation. But more than anything, it's all about really great music.

Sample agrees with Crawford's enthusiasm with the project. He says, there is an absence of space today and when we first started recording with Randy three or four years ago, we were adamant of leaving space on the record because I loved it absolutely so much. On the "No Regrets" record, we chose a variety of songs. Of course, Randy always has the final pick and talking to Puma and myself, we'll go out and search and look. Tommy is Mr. Music, Mr. Song Man and he has been looking for songs since the 1960s. He usually suggests or even Randy may suggest. It always jaws my memory and, of course, I known all of those old songs also.

When you record a duet release, song selection is so important. Joe Sample says, the first thing I think of is is this something Randy can really, really do? Is it something I can get into so that I can create a different type of presentation? We've been very, very fortunate to agree with most of the material we actually thought about doing. My musicology says we're not going to do it like that. They did a great job on doing it the way they did it. Now, it is up to us to come up with another version of those particular songs. I call that interpretation and it is one of the most wonderful aspects of music.

When Joe Sample and Randy Crawford interpreted the songs on No Excuses, they wanted to show their own side of the song. He says, When we were listening to a lot of the older songs we have chosen to record, right away if I detected a particular form of a particular period had been utilized, then I knew right away we were not going to use any formulas. We had the right musicians in the studio, the right producers, the right record company man, the right engineer. We knew that once we began to play this music, just the whole general energy that was actually going into this was going to create its own interpretation, its own atmosphere and also concept of music.

Crawford says the quality of the material is very important to her. She says, it means the world to me to be able to sing quality songs. I grew up listening to all those ladies of great musical talent, Sarah Vaughn, Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, you name it. It took me awhile to feel as comfortable as a recording artist because when I first heard myself on record, I thought, "Oh is that the way I sound?" Now I find that my voice is beautiful and it is original, so there is an authenticity and people can recognize that it's Randy Crawford singing immediately. I think a lot of young artists that come out today sometimes and sounded so formula you don't know who it is. It's a plus to have musicians of this caliber to be able to surround you with that kind of comfort level in the studio so that you can sing and not worry about anything but singing.

Sample agrees with Crawford's view about today's young singers. He says, it was the most wonderful, incredible period of the 1970s where the producer came up with a term describing the 1970s. He said that the 1970s was a period of the Wild West. You could do anything in the 1970s. All of our favorite artists, all of the most meaningful artists had music that was very, very personal and very, very stylized.

In the 1970s, Sample believes there was great expectations for artists. He says, everyone had that thing. One of the factors that made it such an incredible period was that you always waiting for that person's next record. There would be rumors. Had you heard Stevie Wonder's most recent one? Had you heard the Steely Dan's most recent one? Had you heard Marvin Gaye's most recent one? Then people would rush out to the record store when it officially came out and there would be massive sales. Everyone took great pride in being one of the first ones who had the next album.

One of today's artists that Crawford is impressed with is singer Sarah McLachlan. She penned one of the songs on No Excuses called Angel. Crawford says, she wrote a beautiful song and I have never heard it before. The changes I was really, really comfortable with because it reminded me of an old spiritual in many ways. The lyrical content is dark, but it's beautiful. It would be nice if Joe Sample and Randy Crawford get a hit record with "Angel" on our "No Regrets" CD.

Crawford also like recording Randy Newman's Just One Smile. She says, I remember listening to that song when I was very young when I had a Dusty Springfield album. When we were in Holland once, we worked with Randy Newman and met for the first time. He said to me, "I know who you are" and I just was so happy with the outcome of the song we're talking about. Joe really played a beautiful, beautiful piano on that song. Christian McBride is playing bass and it was just wonderful, kind of a New York setting. Tommy told me he did take the song and let Randy hear it and Randy Newman was just blown away by it.

Crawford believes it's not just singers that are getting to be too tied into formulas. She says, it sort of started happening with horn players, too. Sometimes you turn on the radio and you can't tell Kenny G from Michael Lington to Boney James. Formula music has its place I suppose and the kind of music that we're creating hopefully will penetrate that mold so that it can get heard. Then we can continue to make more records and come up with more original material also.

Joe Sample and Randy Crawford have on their own releases show their interpretation of music that challenges people to go beyond their comfort zone. They didn't have to make any excuses for what each has done separately and they have No Excuses on their latest CD about what together they bring to the genre. Let's hope for many more.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Joe Sample, Randy Crawford
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