Joseph Leslie "Joe" Sample (born February 1, 1939) is an American pianist, keyboard player and composer. He is one of the founding members of the Jazz Crusaders, the band which became simply The Crusaders in 1971, and remained a part of the group until its final album in 1991 (not including the 2003 reunion album Rural Renewal).Since the early 1980s, he has enjoyed a successful solo career and has guested on many recordings by other performers and groups, including Miles Davis, George Benson, Jimmy Witherspoon, B. B. King, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, and The Supremes. Sample incorporates jazz, gospel, blues, Latin, and classical forms into his music.BiographySample began playing the piano when he was five years old. He was a student of the organist and pianist Curtis Mayo.In high school in the 1950s, Sample teamed up with two friends, saxophonist Wilton Felder and drummer "Stix" Hooper, to form a group called the Swingsters. While studying piano at Texas Southern University, Sample met and added trombonist Wayne Henderson and several other players to the Swingsters, which became the Modern Jazz Sextet and then the Jazz Crusaders, in emulation of one of the leading progressive jazz bands of the day, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Sample never took a degree from the university; instead, in 1960, he and the Jazz Crusaders made the move from Houston to Los Angeles.The group quickly found opportunities on the West Coast, making its first recording, Freedom Sounds in 1961 and releasing up to four albums a year over much of the 1960s. The Jazz Crusaders played at first in the dominant hard bop style of the day, standing out by virtue of their unusual front-line combination of saxophone (played by Wilton Felder) and Henderson's trombone. Another distinctive quality was the funky, rhythmically appealing acoustic piano playing of Sample, who helped steer the group's sound into a fusion between jazz and soul in the late 1960s. The Jazz Crusaders became a strong concert draw during those years.While Sample and his band mates continued to work together, he and the other band members pursued individual work as well. In 1969 Sample made his first recording under his own name; Fancy Dance featured the pianist as part of a jazz trio. In the 1970s, as the Jazz Crusaders became simply the Crusaders and branched out into popular sounds, Sample became known as a Los Angeles studio musician, appearing on recordings by the likes of Joni Mitchell, Marvin Gaye, Tina Turner, B. B. King, Joe Cocker, Minnie Riperton and Anita Baker. In 1975 he went into the studios with jazz legends Ray Brown on bass, and drummer Shelly Manne to produce a then state-of-the-art recording direct to disc entitled The Three. About this time Blue Note reissued some of the early work by the Jazz Crusaders as "The Young Rabbits". This was a compilation of their recordings done between 1962 and 1968.The electric keyboard was fairly new in the sixties, and Sample became one of the instrument's pioneers. He began to use the electric piano while the group retained their original name, and the group hit a commercial high-water mark with the hit single "Street Life" and the album of the same name in 1979. In 1978 he recorded Swing Street Café with guitarist David T. Walker.The Crusaders, after losing several key members, broke up after recording Life in the Modern World for the GRP label in 1987. Despite the disbanding of the Crusaders, the members would join each other to record periodically over the years, releasing Healing the Wounds in the early '90s. Felder, Hooper, and Sample recorded their first album, called Rural Renewal, as the reunited Crusaders group in 2003 and played a concert in Japan in 2004.Since Sample's Fancy Dance (1969), he has recorded several solo albums, including the George Duke produced Sample This.GRP also released Joe Sample Collection, and a three-disc Crusaders Collection, as testament to Sample's enduring legacy. Some of the pianist's recent recordings are The Song Lives On (1999), featuring duets with singer Lalah Hathaway, and The Pecan Tree (2002), a tribute to his hometown of Houston, where he relocated in 1994. His 2004 album on Verve, Soul Shadows, paid tribute to Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton, and pre-jazz bandleader James Reese Europe. In 2007 he recorded Feeling Good with vocalist Randy Crawford.In 1983, MCA released Joe Sample's The Hunter LP. The Hunter sessions had taken place during the previous year at Hollywood Sound Recorders and Salty Dog Studios in Los Angeles, producing a fine body of recordings of which six were brought forward. Fans believe there maybe other recordings from the sessions yet to be released. Amongst the six tracks, was Night Flight - a mammoth work of over 9 minutes long. UK Jazz Funk and Soul DJ Robbie Vincent premiered Night Flight in its entirety in the Spring of 1983 on his famous Radio London "Saturday Show" resulting in a surge of jazz fusion enthusiasts and Sample fans to buy up all the import copies from London Stores (the same effect had taken place for Earl Klugh's Low Ride album around the same time). For Sample, The Hunter album like the aforementioned Earl Klugh work, featured a number of leading musicians of the day including Marcus Miller on bass (who was also working on Lonnie Liston Smith's Dreams of Tomorrow and Michael Jackson's Thriller) and Paulinho Da Costa on persussion. Sample was also joined on the album by the impressive Phil Upchurch on lead guitar, Dean Parks (also on guitar), Steve Gadd and Bob Wilson on drums, John Phillips on bass clarinet, and Abraham Laboriel on bass. For production, Joe Sample called on his Crusaders' stable mate Wilton Felder. The Hunter album came at a very important juncture in Sample's solo push. Night Flight was and remains the great achievement from these sessions though fans were extremely disappointed when an edited version appeared on the compilation Joe Sample Collection. The Hunter album has been transferred to CD from the original tapes but fans are still awaiting a remastered expanded edition with previously unreleased material and demos.Joe Sample appeared on stage at The Waterfront Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 28 May 2000, playing keyboard solo on George Benson's Deeper Than You Think. This concert was recorded and a DVD entitled George Benson: Absolutely Live was subsequently released. A studio version of Deeper Than You Think was recorded featuring Joe Sample in New York in May 1999 during sessions for a Benson collection which took the title Absolutely Benson. Fans again believe there may have been other collaborations of Sample - Benson which remain in the vaults unreleased.Some of his works are featured on The Weather Channel's "Local on the 8s" segments and his song "Rainbow Seeker" is included in their 2008 compilation release, The Weather Channel Presents: Smooth Jazz II. Nicole Kidman sang his song "One Day I'll Fly Away" in the Baz Luhrmann film Moulin Rouge!Sample has a bassist son named Nicklas (with an ex-wife), who is a member of the Coryell Auger Sample Trio featuring Larry Coryell and Brian Auger.