L.A. Express

L.A. Express was an American jazz-funk band that released four albums between 1974 and 1976, the first two with featured saxophonist Tom Scott. Their first album features keyboardist Joe Sample and guitarist Larry Carlton, who cleared out respectively for Larry Nash and Robben Ford.

Members: David Luell, Joe Sample, John Guerin, Larry Carlton, Larry Nash, Max Bennett, Peter Maunu, Robben Ford, Tom Scott, Victor Feldman


L.A. Express formed in 1973 when session bassist Max Bennett and drummer John Guerin teamed with two Crusaders: guitarist Larry Carlton, and keyboardist Joe Sample.

Bennett (b. 1928; Des Moines) was a post-bop bandleader in the 1950s with multiple albums on Bethlehem Records. After a lengthy spell as Peggy Lee’s bassist, he joined Lalo Schifrin‘s band and played on Frank Zappa‘s 1969–70 albums Hot Rats and Chunga’s Revenge. His recent credits included albums by the 5th Dimension, Barbara Keith, Bobby Bland, George Harrison, Lori Lieberman, Lulu, and Michael Franks.

Guerin (b. 1939; Hawaii) emerged in the early 1960s as the drummer for clarinetist Buddy DeFranco, who made multiple albums for Verve, Norgran, and Mercury. As a sessionist, Guerin played on the 1969–70 Beach Boys albums 20/20 and Sunflower and interacted with Bennett on the concurrent Peggy Lee and Zappa titles. He then joined the 1972–73 Byrds lineup and played on albums by David Axelrod, Graham Parsons, Phil Everly, Roger McGuinn, and Seals & Croft.

Sample (b. 1939; Houston) was a co-founding member of the Jazz Crusaders, a perennial post-bop combo that made fifteen albums between 1961 and 1969 for the Pacific Jazz label. In 1972, they reconfigured as the Crusaders, a jazz-funk act with Carlton (b. 1948; Torrance, Calif.), a rising guitar virtuoso.

The new band linked with saxophonist Tom Scott (b. 1948; LA), who emerged as a Don Ellis sideman and went solo at nineteen with the 1967 Impulse! release The Honeysuckle Breeze. He wrote the theme tunes for The Streets of San Francisco (1972), Starsky and Hutch and The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat (both 1974). Concurrently, he played on albums by the Carpenters, Carole King, Donovan, Tim Buckley, and Victor Feldman.

As sessions commenced on their debut album, L.A. Express linked with singer–songwriter Joni Mitchell, who employed them as her ongoing backing band, starting with her 1974 album Court and Spark.


Discography:

  • Tom Scott and the L.A. Express (1974 • Tom Scott and the L.A. Express)
  • Tom Cat (1975 • Tom Scott & the L.A. Express)
  • L.A. Express (1976)
  • Shadow Play (1976)

Sources:

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