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Joe Sample, Keyboardist and Composer, Dies at 75

Crusaders co-founder transcended genre

Joe Sample
Joe Sample
Randy Crawford and Joe Sample

Joe Sample, the keyboardist and composer who co-founded the Crusaders-originally the Jazz Crusaders-and flourished as a solo artist in the wake of that band’s breakup, died Sept. 12 in his hometown of Houston, Tex. His family confirmed Sample’s death on the artist’s Facebook page but did not cite a cause. Sample was 75 and was known to have suffered two heart attacks in recent decades.

Sample’s artistry transcended genre. With the Crusaders he moved seamlessly between hard bop and, later, a more R&B-rooted funk that ultimately prompted the group to drop the word jazz from its name. On his own, primarily on acoustic piano, Sample’s lyrical phrasing and crystalline sound could be found on recordings made as a leader and in collaborative situations, including three duo albums with singer Randy Crawford in the 2000s.

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