One Track Mind: Joe Sample "Rainbow Seeker" (1978)

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by Pico

Back in the late seventies my oldest brother would come home from college for the weekend and bring with him records by all these fusion and crossover jazz figures that I hadn’t heard of before but sounded good to my younger ears. That’s how I first got to know about guys like Jean-Luc Ponty, The Jeff Lorber Fusion and The Crusaders. Even while my tastes in jazz has—shall we say—broadened considerably since then, I still dig these old records (click here to read me ramble on some more about pre-smooth jazz music).

Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s just that it sounded more like handcrafted music back then, but most likely it’s a combination of both. One of those pleasures that I might be more inclined to call “guilty” these days are a couple of Jimmy Carter-era records made by The Crusaders’ tremendously talented keyboard player, Joe Sample.

We’ve touched on Sample here and there, most prominently on that Five Of The Most Surprising Jazz Records piece, but his solo records generally have plenty to like about ’em, too. Especially 1978’s Rainbow Seeker and 1979’s Carmel. I might not stand in agreement on many things with people who attend Rick Braun or Dave Koz concerts, but these two albums are unquestionably classics of a then-budding genre. I can pick almost any song of these two discs for this OTM, so I’m just gonna go with the first song of the first of these two albums, the title cut from Rainbow Seeker.

This song is, simply put, lite funk-jazz at its finest.

In a time where keyboardists were throwing their Steinways overboard in favor of Moogs, ARPs and Yamahas, Sample stubbornly kept his at the center of his music, along with some of the most righteous Rhodes ever applied to soul or jazz. Despite the slick rhythms provided by fellow Crusader Stix Hooper, bassist Pops Popwell, percussionist Paulinho Da Costa and guitarist Dean Parks, that piano drives the tune. And Joe’s driving it like as if he’s driving a Jaguar…foot on the floor, in a eloquent atmosphere of fine leather and burled wood. Even the slightly dissonant bridge doesn’t disturb this groove. He can play this tune solo piano and it would still groove, because Sample can write pretty melodies with a lot more oomph than the average Alex Bugnon-type.

You know, it’s good to have a big brother to guide an impressionable young man on what the really good stuff is beyond Top 40. Especially when there weren’t any music review blogs around back then to do that job. I don’t get many good music tips from him anymore, but the ones he gave me thirty years ago still fill my head with some sweet sounds from time to time. Probably more often than I’m willing to admit. But don’t tell him I said that.

“One Track Mind” is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron

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