R.I.P. Wilbert Longmire (1940-2018)

Cincinnati loses a hometown Jazz icon. Plus, several local bands team up for a tribute to the late Tom Petty and Downtowne Listening Room's first show of 2018 features three Cincinnati-area singer/songwriters.

Jan 9, 2018 at 10:28 am

click to enlarge Wilbert Longmire's 1980 Tappan Zee Records release, 'With All My Love'
Wilbert Longmire's 1980 Tappan Zee Records release, 'With All My Love'
As 2018 was just getting started, Cincinnati lost another music hero. Beloved Soul Jazz guitarist Wilbert Longmire died on Jan. 1. He was 77.

Born in Alabama, Longmire’s family moved to Cincinnati when he was 3. Longmire’s early career (beginning in the ’60s) included King Records studio work and stints in the bands of organists Hank Marr and Trudy Pitts, as well as sessions for 1969 albums by Jean-Luc Ponty and Gerald Wilson. Longmire’s first album as leader was 1969’s Revolution, released on the World Pacific Jazz label and featuring arrangements by Joe Sample of songs by The Beatles, James Brown and others.

After early ’70s work with saxophonist Rusty Bryant and organist Bill Mason, Longmire’s friend George Benson — a Jazz superstar following the release of his massively successful 1976 album Breezin’ — recommended Longmire to musician/composer Bob James, who was starting his own label, Tappan Zee Records. With help from James (whose “Angela” found success as the theme song of the TV show Taxi) and top-of-the-line session players like Michael and Randy Brecker and David Sanborn, Longmire (who also sang) released three albums for the label — 1978’s Sunny Side Up, 1979’s Champagne and 1980’s With All My Love.

Longmire returned to Cincinnati and became entrenched in the local Jazz scene, performing and acting (as he long had) as a supporter and mentor to other musicians. He is said to have offered a young Bootsy Collins one of his first jobs, and just searching his name on Facebook in the wake of his death brings up a wealth of heartfelt posts of gratitude and admiration from a variety of musicians in the area. Longmire’s various recordings have been reissued and many tracks have been featured on compilations over the years, as he was considered a big part of the roots of Jazz Funk, Smooth Jazz and Acid Jazz. His releases are also popular among “crate-digger” DJs and producers — according to the site whosampled.com, artists like Atmosphere and The Foreign Exchange have used Longmire samples in their work. Longmire contributed to Cincinnati Jazz compilations released by the local J Curve label in the late ’90s/early ’00s, and in 2001 he was given a lifetime achievement award from the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Cammys alongside fellow guitarists Cal Collins and Adrian Belew. 

More Local Notes

• Influential singer/songwriter Tom Petty’s death was one of the more shocking and unexpected of 2017. This Saturday at Woodward Theater (1404 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, woodwardtheater.com), several of Cincinnati’s finest original acts will pay tribute to Petty’s music by playing his songs during a tribute show dubbed “Make It Better: A Tribute to Tom Petty.” Artists slated to play up to two Petty tunes include Wussy, Dawg Yawp, The Tigerlilies, Static Falls, Culture Queer, Darlene, Magnolia Mountain, Plastic Ants and The Hiders.

Showtime is 9 p.m. and admission is $5. Proceeds from the show are being donated to Cincinnati’s Freestore Foodbank.

• The Downtowne Listening Room (located in the old Shillito’s building downtown; you must request a show invite through downtownelisteningroom.com for the exact location/show details) is kicking off its 2018 season this Saturday with its fourth annual “Cincinnati Singer-Songwriter Showcase.” Created for music lovers who like to listen to live music outside of a noisy club environment, Saturday’s showcase features performances by Brittany Gillstrap, Charlie Millikin and Jonathan Cody White. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. and admission is a $10 donation (DLR is a nonprofit endeavor; all event proceeds go directly to the artists).

The Downtowne Listening Room has also been involved in the multi-media project Balcony TV, which features videos of live rooftop/balcony performances by musicians from all over the world, showcasing the music scenes of everywhere from Los Angeles and Manhattan to Barcelona and Johannesburg. The recently launched Cincinnati channel currently includes clips with Millikin (watch below), White, Taylor Henry and Kevin Heider. There is also a Kentucky channel that has videos featuring Krystal Peterson & the Queen City Band, Jess Lamb, Noah Smith and many others. Watch the videos at balconytv.com.

Contact Mike Breen: mbreen@ citybeat.com