Wildare Express – A River’s Invitation


Reuben Wilson


Listen – Wildare Express – A River’s Invitation – MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope the end of the week finds you all well enough to sit up, and dig some swinging, soulful Hammond organ (a condition I find myself in the grips of almost constantly).
This time out, the Hammond in question is being worked masterfully by one of the greats of the funk and soul organ, Mr Reuben Wilson and his group the Wildare Express.
Wilson, who was born in Oklahoma, but grew up in California where he was influenced by Billy Larkin and Richard Groove Holmes.
Wilson moved to New York in 1966 and formed the Wildare Express (also billed as the Wildare Trio) with drummer Tommy Derrick and a guitarist who’s name has been lost to the ages (it doesn’t help that he wasn’t credited on the group’s album). Wildare Express recorded a number of 45s and one full length album for the Brunswick label, all of them featuring Wilson on the organ.
The group’s sound is pretty pure soul jazz, covering a number of genre standards (like today’s selection) as well as contemporary pop material (like the b-side of this 45, a cover of ‘Walk On By’).
‘A River’s Invitation’, written and originally recorded by the great Percy Mayfield. The song is an unusual one, combining an uplifting melody with vaguely macabre lyrics (in which the river invites the protagonist, in search of a lost love, to drown himself). Though there have been dozens of vocal covers of the song, I’ve mainly known the song over the years as an instrumental – including another organ version by Leon Haywood that I posted here some years ago.
The Wildare Express version moves along at a nice clip, opening with a statement of the melody on the sax (no idea who it is) and rhythm guitar, before Wilson comes in blazing about halfway through the record.
I’ve always found Reuben Wilson to be an underrated player. He had a great style, combining a solid jazz feel with a soulful edge. He did do a lot of soul and funk cover material, which 40 years on endears him to crate diggers (his records have been sampled a number of times) but may have been responsible for a position in the second rank of Hammond masters.
After the dissolution of the Wildare Express, Wilson signed with Blue Note and recorded five albums, before moving to Groove Merchant in the early 70s for another three, and then to Cadet for one album in 1975. He has spent the last 30+ years recording for a variety of independent labels.
As far as I know none of the Wildare Express material has been reissued, and aside from the tune I’m posting here, you’ll have to go out and dig for the rest.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back on Monday.



NOTE: It’s a little late to catch the show from the beginning, but don’t forget to fall by Viva Internet Radio Tonight at 9PMEST for the latest edition of the Funky16Corners Radio Show. You can always check out the show (and many pastshows) in the archive.


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8 Responses to “Wildare Express – A River’s Invitation”

  1. Jeff Says:

    If you seek another fine Wildare tune, check out Larry’s v.55 of F16C Radio in the archives. “Crusing,” credited to the Wildare Trio, is part of that mix.

  2. Tony C Says:

    Larry,Sorry for being an Anorak,but I think the guitarist is Grant Green.

  3. funky16corners Says:

    Have you seen any reference to confirm that? I know Wilson recorded with Green later on at Blue Note but I’ve never seen anything to indicate that he played on these records. I’m almost certain that Green (who’s solo career at Blue Note was well underway when the Wildare Express was together) wasn’t a touring member of the group.

  4. Tony C Says:

    Larry ignore my ramblings.Just checked again and it appears Green joined towards the end when Wilson went more into hard bop and at about the same time that he was signed to Blue Note.

  5. funky16corners Says:

    No problem Tony. I thought that maybe we had a breakthrough! I’ve been picking up Wildare Express/Trio records for years and only recently found out the name of the drummer (Tommy Derrick). Derrick and Wilson are pictured on the album cover, but aren’t even named! I always thought it was strange.

  6. Nick Rossi Says:

    According to this forum entry…


    …it’s Thornel Schwartz who played guitar with the Wildare Trio/Express. I don’t know what his source is though. I always kind of assumed it was the same group that Reuben first recorded for Blue Note with in 1968 (an unissued session). Eric Gale (guitar) and Trevor Lawrence (tenor sax) appeared alongside Wilson and Derrick. I seem to recall that I made this assumption based on an interview with Wilson, but I could be very wrong.

    Regardless, I asked a couple of people that have a connection with the man himself, so we might get a definitive answer yet. Stay tuned.

  7. Nick Rossi Says:

    Larry, your post inspired me to dig out my Wildare Express LP as well as my discs that feature Thornel Schwartz – all of which made for some mighty fine hi-fi listening around the flat on Saturday. There are a couple of guitar solos on the b-side of the Wildare LP and there are a COUPLE of guitarists. I can’t pretend to be an expert on Schwartz’s playing, but he does sound like one of them to my ears. He is also credited as a composer on one of the tracks, so my money’s on him for the time being. Still have no idea about the sax-man though.

    I heard back from a couple of folks that I thought would know the identity of the other musicians and all I got were educated guesses (Melvin Sparks? Tommy Riddick?). Argh. Well, I guess until The Reub spills the beans we can only speculate.

  8. funky16corners Says:

    Thanks for the detective work. It looks like multiple guitarists makes the most sense, i.e. the guitarist was a “floating” member of the group, which is why you only see Wilson and Derricks on the LP cover.
    Someday someone will have to get the skinny from Reuben himself.

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