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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Back in the day, jazz musicians had a shot at the top of the pop charts. Back in the day, this tune got airplay on radio stations far and wide.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "STREET LIFE")

RANDY CRAWFORD: (Singing) I play the street light because there's no place I can go. Street lights, it's the only light I know. Street light, and there's a thousand cards to play...

NORRIS: We're talking about back in 1979. The jazz group, The Crusaders, paired with the singer, Randy Crawford, and sold half a million copies of this song, "Street Life."

The single cracked into the Top 40. They were on the ground floor of what we know call smooth or contemporary jazz. Recently, two of the musicians responsible for "Street Life," singer Randy Crawford and Crusaders co-founder, the pianist Joe Sample got together again. They rearranged songs from their shared past and recorded some new music. The result is an album called Feeling Good.

Now before we discuss their most recent project, ask Joe Sample and Randy Crawford about their shining moment in the pop spotlight and what it means for them today.

JOE SAMPLE: "Street Life" is certainly very, very soulful and very, very sophisticated. I don't believe it is truly a pop tune - when you record something and you cut it down to 11 minutes, I don't think you're intention was to get off of pop radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "STREET LIFE")

CRAWFORD: (Singing) Street life. Street life. Street life. Oh, street life.

Well, what I know about it is this that is my signature song. That is the song that opened a lot of musical doors for me. That is the song. It is a musical challenge but it's still fun because the audiences enjoy it and they seem to enjoy playing it. And I get to strut my stuff.

NORRIS: It's always good to strut your stuff. Why is it a challenge though?

CRAWFORD: A musical challenge?

NORRIS: Hmm.

CRAWFORD: It's a rangy song. So you know, sometimes, hitting those notes can also be a challenge and of course, lyrically, oh, prince charming, always smiles beneath the silver spoon. Those lyrics were somewhat had strength or difficult for me to comprehend at that stage of my life, and growing and understanding.

NORRIS: And you sing that song from a different place today.

CRAWFORD: Absolutely. Today, I can sing it with a lot more confidence, a lot more poise. Don't have to take it all that seriously because it's exactly what the lyrics say. We dress. We talk. We walk where, who we think we are. And so we can have a lot of fun. We can dance, and, you know, and just be cool and groovy. All that stuff.

NORRIS: You know, when you listen to the new CD, "Feeling Good," and the 13 tracks, you seem to be visiting a musical path that is very familiar and very comfortable for both of you. You both seemed not too changed much with times or update your sound, why is that?

CRAWFORD: Well, we are what we are. Joe is from the old school and he is a musician of the day. I listen to a lot more varied musicians and he probably won't even - he won't just not listen to them. When we were choosing this material for "Feeling Good," I wanted to lyrically include material or a palette of words that are not too harsh for the spirit, but they're all real.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEE LINE WOMAN")

CRAWFORD: (Singing) All right, now.

NORRIS: You purposely chose upbeat songs because you wanted to sort of bathe in a positive spirit.

CRAWFORD: Yeah. Thanks for helping me. That - that was one of the things that we did with, like, "See Line Woman" and the "End of the Line." We decided to put that in a more, much more modern vein.

NORRIS: The "See Line Woman," she's a - she, well, you know, she's kind of saucy.

CRAWFORD: Yeah. So Joe decided to put that in a musical space that's very modern, but real, as in keeping with the old school.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEE LINE WOMAN")

CRAWFORD: (Singing) See Line woman, she drinks coffee. She drinks tea.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) See Line.

CRAWFORD: (Singing) And then go home. See Line woman. See Line woman, dressed in green, wears silk stockings with gold and cream. See Line woman. See Line woman, dressed in red. Make your man lose his head. See Line woman...

NORRIS: Some of these songs were not necessarily upbeat. Some of them were, at least in earlier recordings, very, very somber.

CRAWFORD: And they still are if you, you know, if you really get into what they're saying, but because they feel the rhythm and the pattern and the grooves. The grooves that he put them in helped me to sing them with a lot more lightness.

NORRIS: Joe, I want you to talk to me about the accompaniment between a vocalist and a pianist. And I want you to explain, if you could, the dance that takes place between the two of you when you perform.

SAMPLE: If I feel that a singer needs me to inspire them, then I would begin to do things to inspire them. But when I see that a singer is inspired, I make sure I don't get in the way. And in the right moment, I will continue the inspiration. That is the beauty of making music. You have to touch your instrument, your sensitivities and your feelings the same way that the other person has.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "FEELING GOOD")

CRAWFORD: (Singing) Birds flying high, you know how I feel. Sun in the sky. You know how I feel. Breeze driftin' by, you know how I feel. It's a new dawn, a new day, a new life for me. And I'm feeling good.

NORRIS: The title track for the CD, "Feeling Good," was chosen by NASA as the wakeup tune for the astronauts on one of the shuttle launches. How did that happen?

SAMPLE: One of my cousins, my oldest cousin told me, you must come and play the piano for this black woman's organization known as the LINKS(ph). And I said, of course, I would do that. Well it was through the LINKS I was introduced to a community of black astronauts. I met Joanie Higginbottom(ph), who's actually from Chicago. Now on the recent trip, Joanie operated the mechanical arm in one of the space walkers. His name was Robert. Well all of my friends, you know, I live about three miles from NASA. I knew the premises. So Joanie had actually told me the previous two months, and she says, I'm going to present this to the astronaut board, the Shuttle board, and I love this record. And this is what I want. I want a wakeup to. So she got it done. Thank you, Joanie.

CRAWFORD: Thank you, Joanie.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "FEELING GOOD")

CRAWFORD: (Singing) Butterflies all having fun. You know what I mean. Sleep in peace when day is done, that's what I mean. It's an bold world. It's a new world. It's a bold world for me. I'm feeling good.

NORRIS: It's been a pleasure to talk to both of you. All the best to you.

SAMPLE: (Unintelligible)

CRAWFORD: Thank you.

NORRIS: Randy Crawford and Joe Sample. The latest CD is called "Feeling Good." You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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