Wilbert Longmire Revolution (World Pacific 1970)

Buried in the excess of groove-oriented records in the late ‘60s and early ’70s: Wilbert Longmire’s Revolution, funk jazz gem of a promising and talented guitarist.

Wilbert Longmire - Revolution


Wilbert Longmire (guitar), Wilton Felder (tenor sax), Anthony Ortega (sax), Greg Barone (trumpet), George Bohanon (trombone), Leon Spencer Jr. (organ, piano), Cal Green (guitar), Larry Gales (string bass), Ron Johnson (Fender Bass), Paul Humphrey (drums), Joe Sample (arranger, conductor)


in 1970 at Liberty Studios, Los Angeles, California


as WP-20161 in 1970

Track listing

Side A:
Scarborough Fair/Canticle
This Guy’s In Love With You
Theme From “The Fox”
Side B:
Movin’ On
Somebody Loves You
Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose

It might’ve been because World Pacific hardly backed up what little funk jazz the Californian label had in its roster, at least not the way Prestige or Blue Note put their stuff on the market place. It might’ve been because Longmire didn’t promote Revolution with a proper working band. Anyway, Longmire’s debut album has always been decidedly under the radar, a fact of funk jazz life that is too bad and in dire need of rectification. If hardly revolutionary, Revolution is a first-class soul jazz effort and should be high on reissuing lists. Anyone? Fresh Sound?

Born in Mobile, Alabama, raised in Cincinnatti, Ohio, Longmire played with Red Prysock and organists Brother Jack McDuff, Trudy Pitts and Hank Marr. Check out Longmire on Marr’s Live At The Club 502 here. Somehow World Pacific got a hold on him and the guitarist was West Coast bound, ending up in the company of two crackerjack Jazz Crusaders/Crusaders, Joe Sample and Wilton Felder. Extremely active as guest artists and producers outside the realm of their prolific hard bop and soul jazz collective, Joe Sample arranges and conducts the band and string section and Wilton Felder plays tenor sax on Revolution, which also features excellent drummer Paul Humphrey.

Chockfull of contemporary tunes and hits, Longmire selected Simon & Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair, Jim Webb’s Galveston, David/Bacharach’s This Guy’s In Love With You, Lalo Schifrin’s Theme From “The Fox”, John Lennon/Beatles’ Revolution, The Delfonics’ Somebody Loves You and Carl Bobbitt’s Give It Up Or Turnit Loose, which was immortalized by James Brown. Revolution is completed by Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers’ Bewitched and his original composition, the sweeping blues Movin’ On.

Such an abundance of pop and soul might easily overwhelm and ultimately bore the jazz listener. However, Longmire succinctly wards off this threat with his flexible, original style. Fat, crystalline tone, fast fingers, gusty winds of varied triplets, thunderstorms of triplets, tsunamis of triplets… Subtle twists and turns, plenty of fire, bossy attitude. Longmire treads the ground between Grant Green and, similar relative unknown as our subject of funkiness, Freddie Robinson; between blues and jazz. Longmire is in the forefront of the mix, bursting from the speakers, embedded in the big sound of a band that includes the typically turbulent and soulful tenor of Felder, a number of wicked and greasy stories by organist Leon Spencer Jr. and a section of strings that, rather surprisingly, does nothing to diminish the record’s solid pocket.

Nothing wrong with the slick soul of Somebody Loves You, the added fuel to the fire of the smooth country-pop of Galveston and the tasty shuffle treatment of Revolution. Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose kills the dance floor crowd but Longmire’s rendition of Scarborough Fair is without a doubt the heaviest mother of his funk repertoire. No Spotify, no reissue to date, link on YouTube luckily, so here’s Scarborough Fair. Fair enough? Absolutely not, but make do and enjoy.

Leon Spencer Jr. Sneak Preview (Prestige 1970)

If you like your groove greasy as kidney stew and gritty as a walk with dinosaurs on a gravel path, Leon Spencer Jr.’s Sneak Preview is the way to go.

Leon Spencer Jr. - Sneak Preview


Leon Spencer Jr. (organ), Grover Washington Jr. (tenor saxophone), Virgil Jones (trumpet), Melvin Sparks (guitar), Idris Muhammad (drums), Buddy Caldwell (conga)


on December 7, 1970 at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as PR 10011 in 1971

Track listing

Side A:
The Slide
Someday My Prince Will Come
Message From The Meters
Side B:
First Gravy
Sneak Preview

The Slide will take you for a ride. Leon Spencer’s opening tune, just like his album on which it was presented early in 1971 on the Prestige label, Sneak Preview, is a vintage gritty Hammond B3 killer. Recorded at Rudy van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Van Gelder not only shaped modern jazz with his engineering for Blue Note and other labels, he was also a fundamental force in making organ jazz an viable musical experience and an accessible, marketable product, initially through his cooperation with Jimmy Smith in 1956. Managing to tame the monster machine’s belligerent tendencies and bringing to the fore crisp, clear lines while retaining the church-rooted feeling, sonority and indomitable oscillating sounds, Van Gelder set the standard for future engineers to follow. In the late sixties and early seventies, RVG was still at it, taking care of virtually all the Prestige funk jazz releases.

Such as Sneak Preview, the sound of molasses, chili in a bowl and ham-on-rye on master tape, which is transferred to the black gold that is still to be enjoyed here and now, in 2018, preferably on original wax, though the OJC reissue is doing a job well done, thank you. Forget the screen of your iPhone for a minute, put the disc on the turntable, kick yourself into gear and slide into the world of sensual, chubby thighs exposed at the stools of sleazy, sweaty bars, of hallelujahs shouted from tiny BBQ joints, of the unstoppable toes that wear out the streets of Baltimore, Harlem’s Lenox Avenue, the wooden floors of Lenny’s-On-The-Turnpike until nothing’s left but dusty remains not unlike the bones of long-gone Victorian maidens… Chill. Zen And The Art Of Turntable Maintenance.

Leon Spencer Jr. gets you to that place. Spencer’s discography is rather concise, but the level of excellence and deep groove is on par with contemporary colleagues like Lonnie Smith and Charles Earland. Spencer came into prominence a few years later. He was born in Houston, Texas in 1945, started out on piano and performed with his friend David “Fathead” Newman as a young man. Spencer studied engineering at Texas Southern University and the University Of Houston and subsequently toured with Army bands. Like many organists, he took up the organ after seeing Jimmy Smith and soon backed Peggy Lee and Lou Rawls. He made his debut in 1969 on guitarist Wilbert Longmire’s Revolution album on World Pacific while living in Los Angeles. Spencer played on guitarist Melvin Sparks’ Sparks and was featured on Lou Donaldson’s Pretty Things album on Blue Note in 1970, which made his reputation as a bonafide jazz funkateer. After Sneak Preview, Spencer would perform on another Donaldson album, Cosmos, another Sparks album, three Sonny Stitt albums and Rusty Bryant’s Fire Eater. As a leader, Spencer followed up Sneak Preview with Louisiana Slim, Bad Walking Woman and Where I’m Coming From.

Sneak Preview used the same line up as Sparks. And the group would work together on Stitt’s Turn It On as well. Some of the members had already cooperated here and there, like Muhammad, Virgil Jones, Melvin Sparks and Buddy Caldwell on Muhammad’s Black Rhythm Revolution on November 2, 1970, or Muhammad, Jones and Sparks on Rusty Bryant’s Soul Liberation on June 15, 1970. I’ve grown accustomed to your face… Standard Prestige procedure (and Blue Note, of course, for that matter): The more tight-knit a group of like-minded fellows and dames become, the smoother the session will develop. This group, consisting of Spencer, trumpeter Virgil Jones, tenor saxophonist Grover Washington Jr., guitarist Melvin Sparks, drummer Idris Muhammad and conga player Buddy Caldwell, has no trouble getting to the nitty-gritty before the lights go out. Idris Muhammad’s drive, as usual, is relentless. There really can be no end to the amazement for the listener of Muhammad’s snappy single snare strokes before-the-one and his firm accompaniment with bass pedal, hi-hat and cymbal. We hear Grover Washington before the saxophonist hit the big time with smooth jazz in the early seventies, and he’s keeping it real and rootsy. And small wonder that A&R man Bob Porter regularly called Virgil Jones for sessions like these, he’s virile, acute, excellent. Virgil Jones is a player who’s all but forgotten, undeservedly.

The group performs Spencer’s funky blues The Slide, shuffle groove First Gravy and the tacky, modal vamp Sneak Preview, Someday My Prince Will Come, the hit from The Presidents 5-10-15-20 and a funk groove from The Meters, Message From The Meters. The latter’s the highlight, a crazy funky affair with intense storytelling from Spencer. Spencer’s bass work (presumably a mix of left hand and a bit of feet) is striking, not only during Message, but also during the popsoul gem 5-10, weaving snappy lines in the middle register into the mix.

Leon Spencer passed away in 2012.

Listen to the full album on YouTube here