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Jazz Pianist Joe Sample Dies At 75

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Finally, tonight we say goodbye to a legend of the keyboard, Joe Sample. He died last night in his hometown of Houston, Texas. In the late 1950s, Sample was one of the founding members of a group called the "Jazz Crusaders," taking up the mantle laid down by Art Blakey and his "Jazz Messengers."

In the '70s, the band would pare back their name to just "The Crusaders" and their sound would change as well. Joe Sample started playing more electric keyboards, and the band entered the world of jazz fusion.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STREET LIFE")

THE CRUSADERS: (Singing) I play the street life because there's no place I can go, street life.

RATH: This song, "Street Life" was a top-40 hit for "The Crusaders" and it sent their album to number one on the jazz charts. The switch to fusion rankled some jazz purists. They thought he'd lost his way. When he talked to NPR back in 2004, Joe Sample answered the critics. And in doing so, summed up his entire career.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVE BROADCAST)

JOE SAMPLE: I have always been a rebel. I grew up in a segregated neighborhood. I remember the politicians of the state of Texas telling me what I couldn't do, who I was and who I was not. And I can't stand it when other musicians tell me that I am playing something wrong. I will not tolerate it. I know what my music is, I know where the foundations are. There's something in me that comes out and what's coming out is what God placed in me. And it's going to come out regardless of what anyone thinks.

RATH: Joe Sample. He died last night at the age of 75.

(SOUNDBITE OF PIANO MUSIC)

RATH: And for Saturday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath. We're back tomorrow. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great night. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.