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Joe Sample, the Crusaders pianist and key figure in Houston jazz died on Friday according to a Facebook post by his wife and son. He was 75.

Sample gained fame after co-founding the Modern Jazz Sextet at Wheatley High School. The band soon moved to Los Angeles after graduation, under the tutelage of another noted Houston musician, Johnny “Guitar” Watson. Sample then started The Jazz Crusaders in the 1970s, a bebop group which then dropped the “Jazz” from their name and simply because “The Crusaders”. The band was cherished for its blending of jazz, funk and soul.

In his later years Sample picked up the accordion and formed the Creole Joe Band, returning to the sounds of zydeco that installed his original passion for music when he was a teenager. An in demand pianist, Sample played with the likes of B.B. King, Marvin Gaye, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell and more during his hey day in the 70s.

“Blues is like the white dust in the neighborhood from the oyster-shell streets,” he told the Houston Chronicle. “It’s a natural thing in this region. Certain things I can play with musicians from here that I cannot play with other musicians from Chicago or Seattle or Boston or New York. They simply do not feel it.”

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