[JPL] The Jazz Crusaders at Ronnie Scott's

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Mon Jan 19 23:07:41 EST 2009

The Jazz Crusaders featuring Wayne Henderson, Ronnie Scott's, London
By Mike Hobart

Published: January 19 2009 23:28 | Last updated: January 19 2009 23:28

The Jazz Crusaders, of which trombonist Wayne Henderson was a founder 
member, formed in 1961 and specialised in a stripped-down, tightly 
arranged and eminently soulful acoustic modern jazz. In 1971 they 
shortened their name to The Crusaders and re-launched as a classy 
jazz-funk act. Though he left in 1975, it is the latter incarnation that 
Henderson's current touring band references both in repertoire and 
presentation. wLike the original, behind the showtime chat and funky 
beats there is a high quotient of gritty improvisation and group interplay.

Henderson's introduction was pure soul-cheese. A finely crafted 
rhythm-section overture zipped from scrubby fanfare through back-alley 
blues to cruise-control funk before he appeared sporting a leopard-skin 
apron -- he later explained that "after flying in from LA [he] was dyin' 
to do some cookin'". A quick flam, and bassist David Hughes was laying 
down the insistent riff of "Stomp and Buck Dance". Henderson was born in 
Houston in 1939, and the theme had all the grit of a Texas blues. It was 
a perfect launch for a jazz workout in which climactic solos alternated 
with spacious duets and tense textures released to smoky swirls.

A relaxed, medium-tempo "Scratch" and an elongated "Eleanor Rigby" 
followed a similar pattern. Paul Russo on tenor and soprano sax rampaged 
through funky licks, devious harmonic trails and screeches -- a perfect 
foil for Henderson's inquisitive trombone musings and rhythmic stabs. 
And there was lots going on in the rhythm section as keyboardist Joel 
Gaines and Brian Price on guitar swapped roles, thickened textures and 
traded lean rhythms.

More textural variety came from Henderson showcasing his elegant 
trombone with a supple duet with drummer Moyes Lucas, an unaccompanied 
solo leaping out of the blue from acoustic piano and elegiac bass guitar 
as intro to "Eleanor Rigby". "Keep On, Keep That Same Old Feeling" had a 
singalong intro -- a few problems coming in on the right beat for some 
of the audience -- while "Always There" tipped the gig further into club 
territory, though there was still room for a twisty sax/trombone duet 
and a go-through-the-moves drum solo. It was uplifting stuff that 
demanded and got an encore.

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