Leroy Hutson & the Free Spirit Symphony – Feel the Spirit (in ’76)

Leroy Hudson and Curtis Mayfield

Feel the Spirit 45

Leroy Hutson & The Free Spirit Symphony – Feel the Spirit from the Curtom 45

Before I get started this Friday, I wanted to give a shout out to Terry Jones, the daughter of New Jersey’s “Queen of Soul”, who contacted me in regards to the review I did on her mother. You can check out her comments here. Ok, on with today’s selection.

It took me a long time to be proud of where I’m from. Every time I’d say I was from New Jersey, I’d get the third degree. There were always Guido jokes, “The Garbage State” nickname, and I distinctively remember an Irish bartender in San Fran being surprised because I wasn’t pushy. As I got older, I accepted my Jersey roots, the fact that we’re also nicknamed “The Porkroll State”, that we’re close to Philly and NYC (which is a blessing), living at “Da Shore” (even though Asbury Park was the only ghetto on the East Coast at one time, I’m OK with it), and we even got our own shirt that said “New Jersey: Only the Strong Survive”. When I got into records, and serious digging, I also got to be proud of our musicians that came from the Garden State. In fact, I always pick up a Jersey record no matter what, it’s just what I do. Today’s selection is an artist from Newark, NJ. He could be possibly one of the most underrated Soul singers of the 1970’s (Rolling Stone magazine would agree). I’m talking about Leroy Hutson. Let’s jump into Leroy Hutson & the Free Spirit Symphony with “Feel the Spirit (In ’76) on Curtom Records from 1975.

Newark, NJ ( or Brick City as Redman would call it some years later ) would be a city in Jersey that would not only produce some talent, but be a hot bed of Clubs where one could see live Jazz, Funk, Soul, and later on Rock. Check out any of the late 60’s and early 70’s Blue Note Live records, and you’ll see what I’m talking about (my favorite being Grant Green Alive!). As mentioned previously, Hutson hailed from Newark, NJ, and as a teen was a member of the The Nu-Tones. Joining up with Deborah Rollins to form Sugar and Spice, the duo released a few singles on Kapp Records. Hutson’s life would take a huge turn when he was in college attending Howard University. It was here he met Donny Hathaway and also was introduced to musicians such as Herbie Hancock and Roberta Flack. He joined the Howard formed Mayfield Singers (hand picked by Curtis Mayfield himself) and later helped Hathaway record a huge favorite hit of mine “The Ghetto”. By 1971, he was asked to replace Mayfield in the Impressions. He did have a short, successful career with the Impressions, but that just paved a road for his solo stuff that retains an underground following to this day. His affiliation with the Curtom label and Chicago Soul is undeniable. Curtom was founded as one of the first ever African American owned labels. That’s huge for it’s time. With Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions as their flagship artists, they also put out records by Hathaway, Baby Huey and the Babysitters, The Natural Four, The Staple Singers and others. There are many artists who modeled themselves off of the Curtom sound, and it would be an absolute crime to not recognize this record label as a driving force in Soul music history.

Leroy Hutson played mutiple instruments ( saxophone, keyboards, clavinet, piano), and also did some producing and arranging in his time ( Roberta Flack, Natural Four, Linda Clifford among others). He was definitely a cult Soul favorite. “Feel the Spirit” is a great example why. This recording comes in right in the beginning of Disco. It’s driving beat and soulful back up singing celebrate the 200 years of our country’s inception in a way that Hutson only knows. If you weren’t feeling any spirt before you listened to this, Hutson and company beckon you to feel what they’re feeling. After all, it’s only a feeling, they say, and you can celebrate it in your own way. While Disco is definitely not one of my favorite genres, I can dig some of the early stuff, as the artists were in between the times, trying to infuse this new sound with the sounds they were already prolific with. This raw infusion is exactly what I like, and it’s something that you see Jazz cats doing all the time. They mixed the straight ahead Jazz stuff with a Funk or Soul song, and BAM!, you have a winner. Leroy Hutson did the same, and that’s one of the reasons he’s a success, even today. I’m hoping you felt some kind of spirit with this side. Keep Diggin!

6 responses to “Leroy Hutson & the Free Spirit Symphony – Feel the Spirit (in ’76)

  1. no man, “the spot” is all yours, i’ll be in philly. rock it hard!
    tell the old man i said what’s up and ask him to tell you the story about the videos – trickle trickle 45…

  2. Hey Pres. My uncle has a bunch of Leroy Hutson LPs in his crates. I guess it’s time to pay him a visit, huh?
    I must agree with you, Englewood Cliffs was definitely the spot for hot Jazz back in the day, no doubt.
    Kudos to Ms. Jones for sure!

    Peace and blessings.

  3. Pingback: FLEA MARKET FUNK-Leroy Hutson & The Free Spirit Symphony « LeRoy Hutson·

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