Soul Shadows

The back of the CD booklet has a close-up shot of veteran pianist Joe Sample's long, slender fingers.

The back of the CD booklet has a close-up shot of veteran pianist Joe Sample's long, slender fingers. It's the fitting image for, remarkably, his first solo piano album. Founding member of the classic soul-jazz group the Crusaders, the 65-year-old Sample returns to his roots here with an engaging collection—all unfettered spins on classics except for two soulful originals—that display his prowess for stride, boogie-woogie, ragtime and dynamics-drenched balladry. Unlike many solo piano recordings, Sample's outing soars, tumbles and rarely flags. The collection opens with an ebullient bounce through James Reese Europe's World War I-era hit, "How You Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm?," and a blues-tattooed rendition of Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'." The rest of this delectable disc finds Sample gleeful ("I Got Rhythm"), romantic ("Embraceable You") and reflective ("Spellbound"). Recommended.—DO