The Pecan Tree is a collection of 11 compositions from master pianist /composer Joe Sample that were inspired by his Southeast Texas roots and influences. As a founding member of the pioneering quartet the Jazz Crusaders and as a solo artist, the pianist has created an impressive musical style based upon his early appreciation for jazz, gospel, soul, bebop, blues, Latin, and classical music. The Pecan Tree features many of those musical genres performed with such special guests as Lenny Castro and Paulinho da Costa on percussion, renowned R&B vocalist Howard Hewett, and newcomer Lizz Wright. Sample's Quintet kicks off the set with the title track, a Latin-tinged mid-tempo instrumental that features Sample's beautiful melodicism in harmony with the percussive mastery of Lenny Castro. The ensemble brings their creativity ingenuity to "Hot and Humid," a sweltering musical story of the region's weather condition. You can literally feel the heat from Sample's fiery piano chops. The soulful voice of Howard Hewett on "With These Hands" also makes this CD entertaining. He envelopes the listener with his gospel-tinged R&B tenor and holds you spellbound throughout this lovely ballad with his powerful range and heartfelt lyricism. The Pecan Tree is an apt tribute in the form of choice songs that describe Sample's true essence as a great musical storyteller and ranks alongside his smash hit Carmel with respect to his ability to deliver musical metaphors through smart phrasing and compelling melodies that reflect local settings.
- Paula Edelstein (All Music Guide)
========= from the cover ==========
"The apple does not fall far from the tree" is the age-old phrase.
In the swamp-like, clay soil of Southeastern Texas, apple trees are few and far between. However pecan trees flourish. We had a big pecan tree in our front yard. It was a o magnificent tree, created to bear delicious fruit and shield us from the intense heat of the midsummer sun. I was proud of that tree, and it proclaimed to the neighborhood that, "The people who live in this house must be important." It was one of my best friends and it befriended all of the kids on the block. We loved its wonderful, super pecans, and had to protect it from pecan raiders. It died of old age.
That tree and I lived with "Sanctified, Holly Rollers" and Pentecostal camp meetings. Their music was wonderful. The intensity frightened me. The sound of live blues resonated from house to house and bar to bar. It echoed our emotions. Our "second line" cousins and their culinary and musical spices are anchored to our tastes and hearts. The motherland and all its splendid wonders were only a train stop away.
The Gregorian chants of the Creole Catholic church wove their spirituality amongst the blues, gospel and jazz. The result was an intricate cushion of comfort. Healing was the daily business of the culture. The roots of spirituality bound everything. Those roots are anchored in the nourishing clay of the Southeast Texas Delta under the branches of the pecan tree.
I did not fall far from that tree. A slice of pecan pie is still a very good thing.
- Joe Sample