Groove Crusade

  • Formed in 2019 as a result of a chance meeting between a saxophonist and a trombonist, depping on a pianist’s gig, a casual conversation between all three revealed a mutual love of the music of the Crusaders, for nigh on 50 years one of the world’s leading soul/funk/jazz/blues bands and session players for the likes of Randy Crawford, Bill Withers and Eric Clapton. Given that the front line of tenor saxophone and trombone was the Crusaders’ signature sound, it wasn’t long before a sizeable pad of transcriptions of their music was written, and Groove Crusade ventured out into the world to considerable critical acclaim. Just in time for the pandemic!

    After the inevitable two-year hiatus the band resumed where it left off in the summer of 2022,  remaining a labour of love from six of the North of England’s most experienced players and continuing to delight audiences with feel-good music, described by one punter as ‘jazz for people who don’t like jazz!’.

    ‘ ……… the night opened with Groove Crusade (who are probably as near to the real thing as you’ll ever hear this side of the water)’

    Fabulosa Festival, Yorkshire.

    ‘……neat arrangements which made the band sound very together, even though they claimed to have rehearsed mainly by e-mail.   If that’s true……. then we have even more to thank Tim Berners-Lee for.   Very good stuff, and the band deserves to do well.’

    Kendal Jazz Club.

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    Groove Crusade is;

    Jon Moreman; Trombone.

    Stuart Johnson; Tenor & soprano saxophones

    Pete Major; Keyboards.

    Willy Fluss; Guitar.

    Neil Harland; Bass.

    Tim Franks; Drums

    Here’s a review of the 2003 Crusaders’ album ‘Groove Crusade’ from which the band takes its name. It sums up nicely what the music is about, and we’ve no problem with that!

    Groove Crusade is a smoking little sampling of the Crusaders recordings from 1970-1979. It is a compilation of tunes assembled from the beginning of the period where they dropped the word “Jazz” from the front of their name as a reaction to the harsh words the band received from jazz critics throughout the 1960s. Long before the tracks on this comp appeared, in what are now regarded as legendary live dates recorded at the Lighthouse in California, this West Coast group (by way of Texas, where four of them grew up playing together) called The Jazz Crusaders were instrumental in the creation of what we now call soul-jazz. In the early ’60s, the quintet was regarded as a hard bop unit; but that description didn’t fit so well because the compositions and arrangements concentrated on what would accent their unique combination of jazz, blues, gospel, and soul. The Crusaders’ sound was a deep emotional music that didn’t rely so much on player’s soloing chops (though all of them are great soloists), but rather on the total feel produced by the group. They were regarded with hostility and/or dismissed by many “important” critics during the decade — bop and hard bop fans at the time were as conservative, if not more, as folk revival aficionados. The music made by the Crusaders was considered lightweight……………..because it communicated so directly to the listening audience’.

    Thom Jurek.


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