The Jazz Crusaders – Old Socks New Shoes New Socks Old Shoes (1970)

Jazz Crusaders – Old Socks New Shoes New Socks Old Shoes (1970)
Originally released as Chisa #804 (Motown distribution)

This reissue, Verve Originals, EU release, 2008

01 – Thank You
02 – Funny Shuffle
03 – Why Do You Laugh At Me
04 – Jackson!
05 – Rainy Night In Georgia
06 – Golden Slumbers
07 – Jazz!
08 – Time Has No Ending
09 – Hard Times
10 – Way Back Home

Wayne Henderson – trombone
Wilton Fedder – sax, bass
Joe Sample – electric piano
Stix Hooper – drums

with Arthur Adams, Freddie Robinson – guitars

I have spent quite a few hours wondering why it is that when I feel like total shit, putting on virtually any (Jazz) Crusaders record cheers me up. Something about their records are just comfortable in an early-to-mid 1970s way, like hearing John Sebastian sing the theme to “Welcome Back, Kotter” and forgetting there was an illegal disgusting war going on somewhere in Asia. Their soul-jazz fusion had a playful plaid-and-corduroy mainstream sensibility to its execution, enough so to make it sometimes pass from one ear and innocuously out the other if you aren’t particularly tuned in. But when you pay closer you begin to understand more about whatever it is that makes these records so *warm*, and I suspect it’s because that ‘whatever’ involves layers of complexity and texture tucked away in the shag carpet.

Recorded at Wally Heider’s studio in San Francisco, this album is neither their best nor their worst. This is the last time they would release an album as the JAZZ Crusaders before simply dropping the ‘jazz’ and becoming simply “The Crusaders.” Actually if they lost it unintentionally, it would have been pretty easy to figure out how to go back and find it, as they left it on the second cut of Side Two (track 7 on the CD), the most unimaginatively-titled “Jazz!”. Wayne Henderson was apparently prone to exclamatory punctuation in 1970 (Jackson!). “Old Socks News Shoes New Socks Old Shoes” is also one of only two of their albums to be released on the Chisa label.

The album is peppered with instrumental covers of songs that had just been recently huge hits, “Thank You” (Sly Stone), “Rainy Night in Georgia” (Brook Benton, written by Tony Joe White), and “Golden Slumbers” (The Beatles). One could almost say that the band sounds more inspired interpreting this material than their own compositions on this album. “Rainy Night in Georgia” is lusciously laid-back, with an opening percussive section that reminds me, oddly enough, of Jaki Liebezeit’s drumming for Can. In fact Stix Hooper keeps this up throughout the entire sound, with the ending coda winding down in a pattern of psychedelic raindrops courtesy of his drumming and some strummed guitar appregios (courtesy of either Arthur Adams or Freddie Robinson, or both). “Golden Slumbers” kind of steals its thunder, however. I personally find this track far superior than their more famous Beatles cover, Eleanor Rigby (which, in spite of being a very peculiar choice for a soul-jazz instrumental treatment, would be turned into an epic running around 15 minutes for their live gigs..) The Crusaders put more, I don’t know, *pathos* into this reading, it’s suitably sad, melancholic and triumphal in all the right measures to make it a fitting tribute to one of Lennon & McCartney’s best tunes, rather than just cheese. The Crusaders frequently run the cheese gamut from Stilton to fondue without ever becoming overly-processed. And for this they must be respected. Must! The song ‘Hard Times’ is almost unrecognizable as the Ray Charles hit from ten years previous. The original compositions from the Crusaders seemed to be in a sort of limbo in this period, and Henderson and Sample would find their footing again over the next few albums. But all the tracks are good, with the aforementioned “Jazz!” being the one near throw-away, a basic electric hard-bop number that seems to exist only to remind us of the band’s origins.