Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Crusaders sax star & Motown first call bassist Wilton Felder R.I.P.

Wilton Felder @bluesandsoul.com
Wilton Felder @bluesandsoul.com Wilton Felder @bluesandsoul.com Wilton Felder @bluesandsoul.com The Crusaders inc; Wilton Felder @bluesandsoul.com

Wilton Felder has passed away at the age of 75. Best known as a founder member and sax star of the jazz rock fusion band The Crusaders. But Wilton was a superb bass player and a first call session man for Motown Records, playing on a stack of big hits for the likes of The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye and the Four Tops.

News of his death on Sunday 27th September, was announced by his life long friend and musical colleague Ray Parker Jr. on his Facebook page, on the same day as his passing. No cause or other details have been released.

Born in Houston Texas in 1940, Wilton Felder, Joe Sample, and Stix Hooper formed their first band while at High School, adding Wayne Henderson while at University in Texas, giving the band the name The Jazz Crusaders. They left University to move to L.A. in 1959,

They recorded hard bop jazz albums, but eventually evolved from a jazz group into a jazz-rock fusion band, but always drenched in soul. In 1971 they released probably the first jazz-rock album to cross over into the mainstream,â Pass The Plate.â That put them on the global map, with The Beatles writing to them and a cover of Eleanor Rigby, plus a support slot to The Rolling Stones tour. In 1974 they played ahead of the Rumble In The Jungle boxing event, the heavyweight championship fight between Ali and Houston-based George Foreman in Zaire.

Wilton worked with the original group for over thirty years, and in its later versions.

He was one of the in-house bass players for Motown Records, when the record label opened up operations in L.A. in the early 1970s. He played on tracks by the Jackson 5, including âI Want You Back, " and Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On."

He also played bass for America, Seals and Crofts, John Cale, Billy Joel, Randy Newman, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Jackson Browne, BB King, Solomon Burke, Willie Hutch, Bobby Blue Bland, The Hues Corporation, Chuck Jackson, Eddie Kendricks, Stanley Turrentine and many others.

He cut nine solo albums between 1978 and 2005. His first was âBullitt,â in 1970, featuring the theme from the cult movie starring Steve McQueen. His 1985 album, âSecrets,â featured Bobby Womack on vocals, breaking into the UK charts in 1985. The title track of his 1980 album âInherit The Wind,â was a big R&B hit.

His death comes just over a year after the passing of fellow Crusaders Wayne Henderson, the master trombonist, and pianist Joe Sample. Drummer Nesbert âStixâ Hooper is the sole surviving member of the four original Crusaders.

Many will mainly know The Crusaders and in particular, Wilton's blissful sax parts on the smash hit single, "Street Life," featuring lead vocals from Ms Randy Crawford. But Wilton's supreme skills stretch back to the 50s on bass guitar and on saxophone, and as a songwriter and producer on many genres. His talent and his gentle nature will be greatly missed.
Words SIMON REDLEY

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