R.I.P. Wilton Felder



Wilton was a great saxophonist, bassist and composer, very influential to me in my "formative years" as a musician because of his work with the late Andrae Crouch. He and pianist, Joe Sample played on several of Andrae's albums in the 70s. Back then, I used to put a piece of paper over the speaker on my tape player so I could hear the bass better (this was before I started playing bass).

Since, in our house we could only listen to gospel, that was the only exposure I had to his music for a long time. I knew of him as a bassist for years before I even heard of The Crusaders. When I saw him on the inside cover of Chain Reaction holding a sax I didn't know what to think. Turns out, he played both bass and sax on that and several Crusaders albums.  I set out to buy every Crusaders album after that, I didn't do too bad, I think I have about 14 not including solo releases.

Then, I found out by he he was responsible for playing one of the coldest baselines in history; The Jackson 5's "I Want You Back". I don't know if he came up with it but he sure played the mess out of it!

Check out his isolated bass track, if the opening lick wasn't enough what he does at 2:04 and 2:10 is just sick!  

 This was my brother, Kevin's (R.I.P.) favorite Wilton Felder song, "Mr. Scoots" from the 1985 "Secrets" album. I first heard this on Al Santana's show on the WAVE 102.5 FM back in the day. 

Who could forget this timeless classic WF composition "Way Back Home"  from 1971 album "Old Socks, New Shoes" ? I would often use this song as the show closer on my past trio gigs. A very simple but powerful melody. 


My favorite of Wilton's solo albums, released in 1993, features in addition to Wilton's soulful tone; Rayford Griffin on drums, the incomparable Nathaniel Philips on bass And a special guest appearance from Bobby Womack on the title cut.

Mr. Felder has an incredible body of work as a studio bassist playing for a wide range of artists including Marvin Gaye, Grant Green, Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Smith, Milt Jackson, Joan Baez, Seals and Crofts and many many more. 

The internet is full of images of Wilton Felder holding or playing a saxophone but here is a link to the only photo I know of with him playing bass: http://www.donpeakemusic.com/DP_photos/DP_23.jpg

It's not a stretch at all to say that Wilton Felder and the Crusaders' work went a long way into shaping the way I hear and feel music.