After 35 years of touring and recording with his internationally-acclaimed jazz group The Crusaders, drummer Stix Hooper took a well-deserved break from music. But it wasn't long before he was back in the studio, this time as the president of Mack Avenue Records. Hooper is determined to keep the jazz flame burning with his label's new series the Legacy Lives On.
One of the advantages of being a Jazz Crusader for more than three decades was getting to meet many, many people, including famed pianist George Shearing playing "Darn That Dream" from the Legacy Lives On II.
Having traveled far and wide with the Crusaders, Stix Hooper's list of friends, both music and non-music business acquaintances, is endless. It was from this list that Hooper called and invited his fellow jazz friends to perform on a series of albums dedicated to great jazz.
Hooper says he wanted to produce a project that would help introduce some old names to some new faces. "Just to let people know that these people are not only alive and well," he said, "but just as a reminder also that these are great songs and contributions they had made. And also to accept and acknowledge the fact that they wanted to use other means to explore other vehicles in which to play on also."
The first Legacy Lives On collection, released in 2000, features singers Shirley Horn and Jon Hendricks, saxman James Moody, guitarist Kenny Burrell, bassist Ray Brown and Stix Hooper's former bandmate pianist Joe Sample.
Hooper fondly remembers the Crusaders being at the forefront of the pop-jazz movement. "We tried to do things that were a little bit unusual," he said. "We incorporated all of the electronic keyboards when Joe (Sample) was playing them in the days when the transition was happening and a lot of artists and jazz groups were using them. We incorporated them all, in terms of tonality and sound, and all of the electronics and all of the things that had to do with technology."
From Crusaders to crusader, Stix Hooper is enjoying the best of both worlds, producing and playing jazz. On the Legacy Lives On II, Hooper played drums on one of three George Shearing cuts, as well as a jazz funk original by veteran pianist and singer Les McCann. Mr. Hooper continued, "Les McCann said, 'If I'm going to do some funk, I want you to play with me.' And that's the beauty of the broad base of jazz and that association with him to do those kinds of grooves. It was really fun."
In addition to Les McCann and George Shearing, the latest Legacy Lives On collection includes tunes by singer Anita O'Day and The Paul Smith Trio, The Terry Gibbs Quartet, and two all-star jazz groups - The Eastern Rebellion featuring pianist Cedar Walton and a West Coast jazz quintet led by the late trumpeter Conte Candoli performing "Travisimo"