Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Charles Earland - 1974 - Leaving This Planet

Charles Earland 
Leaving This Planet

01. Leaving This Planet 7:29
02. Red Clay 7:05
03. Warp Factor 8 6:18
04. Brown Eyes 12:50
05. Asteroid 6:51
06. Mason's Galaxy 7:17
07. No Me Esqueca (Don't Forget Me) 7:41
08. Tyner 6:03
09. Van Jay 8:55
10. Never Ending Melody 9:45

Drums – Brian Brake (tracks: A3, D1, D2), Harvey Mason (tracks: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1-3)
Guitar – Eddie Arkin (tracks: A1, A3, B1, C1, C3, D2), Greg Crockett (tracks: A2), Mark Elf
Organ, Synthesizer [Arp And Moog], Written-By – Charles Earland
Percussion – Larry Killian
Synthesizer [Arp And Moog] – Patrick Gleeson
Tenor Saxophone – Joe Henderson
Trumpet – Eddie Henderson (tracks: A1, B1, C1, C3)
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Freddie Hubbard
Vocals – Rudy Copeland

A definite departure from the type of earthy, groove-oriented soul-jazz he usually embraced, Leaving This Planet is perhaps Charles Earland's most ambitious -- and surprising -- album. Responding to the fusion revolution, Earland plays keyboards and various synthesizers in addition to his usual Hammond B-3 organ, and thrives in a very electric setting. The album isn't fusion in the same sense as Miles Davis, Larry Coryell or Weather Report -- rather, he incorporates funk and rock elements in a manner not unlike the early-'70s experiments of tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. And in fact, those greats (as well as trumpeter Eddie Henderson) are among the superb soloists featured. Whether the Philadelphian is embracing Hub's "Red Clay," Henderson's "No Me Esqueca," or fine compositions of his own (which range from the congenial, pleasant "Brown Eyes" to the abstract "Warp Factor 8"), he leaves no doubt just how much he's enjoying this surprising change of pace.

Charles Earland - 1976 - The Great Pyramid

Charles Earland
The Great Pyramid

01. The Great Pyramid 7:11
02. Ahead Of Your Time 3:18
03. Mona Lisa 9:15
04. In The Land Of Mu 7:57
05. Upper Atlantis 5:55
06. Drifting 6:23

Acoustic Guitar – Gabor Szabo
Backing Vocals – Jernigan Singers
Bass – David Clarke
Congas – Lawrence Killian
Drums – Abe Speller
Flugelhorn, Trumpet – Jon Faddis, Randy Brecker
Grand Piano, Electric Piano, Synthesizer [Arp String], Lead Vocals – Charles Earland
Lead Guitar – Jackie Turner
Percussion – José Cheo Santos
Rhythm Guitar – Butch Campbell
Strings – Spice Strings
Tenor Saxophone, Backing Vocals – Arthur Grant
Trombone – Chris Brubeck.
Cowbell – José Cheo Santos
Rhythm Guitar, Lead Vocals – Jackie Turner
Tenor Saxophone – Arthur Grant
Drums – Harvey Mason

In the late '60s, Earland became one of the stars on the B-3 organ and earned a classic with 1969's Black Talk. Like many organ players in the '70s, Earland moved over to the Fender Rhodes, the Mini-Moog, and the ARP string synthesizer with mixed results. This 1977 album is the follow-up to 1976's Odyssey. While Earland's skills are never in question here, the execution and the style are the problems here. Although many players legitimately started to do more material pertaining to the universal, even zodiacal concerns, by this time it was becoming old hat. The title track is symptomatic of Earland's the more pensive direction and even emotive Gabor Szabo's guitar solo; can't save the "deepness" from being cloying. Of course with albums of the type, the biggest success comes when the artist isn't really trying. The lilting and melodic "Ahead of Your Time" features vocals from writer and guitarist Jackie Turner, and has Earland doing some effortless and ductile work, especially on the Fender Rhodes. All of the good feelings that song brought were no doubt destroyed by a Earland's disco-fied/Latin version of "Mona Lisa" Other tracks, most notably "In the Land of Mu" and "Upper Atlantis," lack the hooks and are instantly forgettable. Recorded at Sound Ideas Studios in New York, The Great Pyramid features players like Randy Brecker, Ohio Players bassist Marshall Jones, and drummer Harvey Mason

Charles Earland - 1976 - Odyssey

Charles Earland 

01. Intergalactic Love Song 6:16
02. Sons Of The Gods 5:44
03. Cosmic Fever 8:01
04. From My Heart To Yours 3:46
05. We All Live In The Jungle 3:44
06. Phire 4:07
07. Journey Of The Soul 8:53

John Abercrombie: Guitar
John Blair: Vocals
Randy Brecker: Trumpet
Ron Carter: Bass
Billy Colburn: Bass
Norman Connors: Drums
Charles Earland: Organ, Piano (Electric), Primary Artist, Synthesizer, Vocals
Arthur Grant: Vocals
Lawrence Killian: Percussion
Richard Kimsvark: Keyboards
Howard King: Drums
Robert Lowe: Guitar
Hosea Cheo Santos: Percussion
Abe Speller: Drums
Jack Turner: Saxophone
Michal Urbaniak: Vocals

This is a great fusion outing for Charles Earland that mostly works, apart from a dodgy heavy rock moment that doesn’t seem to really fit in, the rest of it is a joy to sit through. There’s some great violin work on here, which isn’t always an instrument you’d associate with late ‘70s fusion work, but it fits in really well. Apart from the heavy metal moment, this album sways between heavy duty Headhunter’s style space-funk, soulful jazz-funk groove and dance floor friendly straight funk. Think along the lines of a deeper more intense Bobby Lyle and you’ll have hit the nail on the head. Great stuff indeed.

Charles Earland - 1975 Kharma

Charles Earland

01. Joe Brown
02. Morgan
03. Suite For Martin Luther King Part 1: Offering
04. Suite For Martin Luther King Part 2: Mode For Martin
05. Kharma

Drums – George Johnson
Electric Bass – Ron Carter (tracks: B2, B3)
Electric Piano, Organ, Synthesizer – Charles Earland
Flute, Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Dave Hubbard
Guitar – Aurell Ray
Trombone – Clifford Adams
Trumpet – Jon Faddis

Recorded during concert performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival; Saturday, July 6, 1974.

Earland was getting into mixing up his customary organ with electric piano and synthesizer by the time of this 1974 concert, recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival. While this sometimes broadened his tonal range impressively, at other times it worked against his best strengths and his best instrument, the organ. Still, this is a respectable and energetic set containing some real flights of inspiration, as when he seems to be barely keeping some demons in check during the more frenzied solos in "Joe Brown" and "Morgan." There's a good share of space for the three hornmen in the lineup, and he lets loose with some pretty combative outer-space electronics once he gets into the two-part, 16-minute "Suite for Martin Luther King," complemented by some nearly free jazz soprano sax by Dave Hubbard. That piece mellows into some near-fusion in its second half as Earland moves to electric piano, a mood which carries over to the closing "Kharma," probably the most pop-R&B-friendly of the five tracks (all Earland compositions). The album was paired with the fine 1972 LP Live at the Lighthouse on the 2002 CD reissue Charles Earland in Concert.

Charles Earland - 1974 - The Dynamite Brothers

Charles Earland 
The Dynamite Brothers

01. Betty's Theme 5:01
02. Never Ending Melody 5:19
03. Grasshopper 2:47
04. Shanty Blues 4:11
05. Weedhopper 3:32
06. Razor J. 2:25
07. Snake 8:37
08. Kungfusion 3:41
09. Incense Of Essence 4:39

Organ, Electric Piano, Synthesizer – Charles Earland
Drums [Left Side] – Billy Hart
Drums, Timpani [Right Side] – Daryll Washington
Electric Bass – Mervin Bronson
Flute, Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Dave Hubbard
Guitar – Cornell Dupree, Keith Loving, Mark Elf
Percussion – Larry Lillian
Synthesizer – Patrick Gleeson
Trombone – Wayne Andre
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Danny Moore, Eddie Henderson, Jon Faddis, Victor Paz

Recorded at C.I. Recording, New York City in November 1973.
Remixed at Fantasy Studios, Berkley, Ca. in December 1973.

Charles Earland composed and played on the soundtrack to The Dynamite Brothers, one of the most obscure blaxploitation movies. Although there were some soul-jazz elements in the score, it also reflected the move among many musicians from that background into funk, fusion, and rock territory in the early- to mid-'70s, particularly in the synthesizers by Patrick Gleeson. It often sounds like the kind of music you might have heard from a band warming up a crowd for a Miles Davis concert of the time. It's suitably slightly spaced soul/funk/fusion, atmospheric but not too heavy on remarkable compositional ideas. Gleeson does come up with some eerie wavering, high-pitched effects and squiggles on his ARP 2600 and Pro Soloist synths, and Earland gets down with some real earthy extended bluesy soloing on "Shanty Blues." Earland switches from organ to soprano sax on the most avant-garde and dissonant outing, the eight-minute "Snake." In 2001, the album was paired on a single-CD reissue on Prestige with another blaxploitation soundtrack, the Blackbyrds' Cornbread, Earl and Me.

Charles Earland - 1972 - Soul Story

Charles Earland 
Soul Story

01. Betty's Dilemma
02. Love Story
03. One For Scotty
04. My Scorpio Lady
05. I Was Made To Love Her
06. Happy Medium

- Charles Earland - Organ, Vocals (2, 6)
- Houston Person - Tenor Saxophone (1, 2, 6)
- James Vass - Alto & Soprano Saxophones, Flute (1, 2, 6)
- Gary Chandler - Trumpet (1, 2, 6)
- Arthur Grant, Jr. - Tenor Saxophone, Flute (3, 4, 5)
- Clifford Adams, Jr. - Trombone (3, 4, 5)
- Virgil Jones - Trumpet (3, 4, 5)
- Maynard Parker - Guitar
- Jesse Kilpatrick - Drums (1, 2, 6)
- Billy "Kentucky" Wilson - Drums (3, 4, 5)
- Buddy Caldwell - Congas, Percussion (1, 2, 6)
- Arthur Jenkins Jr. - Congas (3, 4, 5)

Charles Earland and his band of players including Houston Person and Maynard Parker jump start things with the rousing funk-jazz of Betty’s Dilemma with some pounding drums by Jesse Kilpatrick who lets loose with a long LOOOOONG drum break as well. Earland changes pace with the next song, Love Story with its moody beginning before going into a little vamp, probably the only version of this song I’ve ever actually liked. On the second side Earland returns to his more traditional, swinging soul-jazz with One For Scotty. The band also does a decent cover of S. Wonder’s I Was Made To Love Her. Probably one of Earland’s best albums.
This has never made a reissue on lp but I seem to remember a couple of tracks from it have made compilation albums.

Charles Earland - 1972 - Live at the Lighthouse

Charles Earland 
Live at the Lighthouse

01. Smiling
02. We've Only Just Begun
03. Black Gun
04. Spinky
05. Freedom Jazz Dance
06. Moontrane

Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – James Vass
Congas – Kenneth Nash
Drums – Darryl Washington
Guitar – Maynard Parker
Organ – Charles Earland
Trombone – Clifford Adams
Trumpet – Elmer Coles

Recorded at The Lighthouse, Hermosa Beach

There were a number of different sides to Charles Earland's musical personality, all of them capable of representing him fully in any given moment. This date from 1971 at the legendary Lighthouse club offers a stunning vision of Earland the soul organist, not the jazzman. Certainly there is plenty of improvisation here and many unexpected twists and turns in the arrangements, with decisions made and reacted to on the spot. But that's not what makes this date so special. This is Earland digging so deeply into a groove emotionally that he's unconcerned with anything but feeling. No, dammit, it's doesn't mean that the playing is sloppy. Raw, yeah. Sloppy? If you've heard the cat's music, you should've known better. If you haven't, you're forgiven this time. In any case, beginning with Sly Stone's "Smiling," Earland is hooked into something. He's got the essence of the tune in his hands, but something about it just won't give; he's digging deep within these huge chords, trying to get it to crack, but it won't -- until Maynard Parker's guitar solo comes from out of chordville with huge, gritty voicings and single-note runs that give Earland a harmony read on the feel. As for the horns, played by trombonist Clifford Adams and saxophonist Jimmy Vass, it's a soul jam and they play in classic J.B.'s style. And just as the band begins to wind it out and move into the darkness, Earland finds what he's looking for and shifts the emotional context into bright, black light. This is evidenced further by the most swinging version ever of "We've Only Just Begun." Who ever thought that a puff piece of a pop tune could groove? Obviously Earland, because he takes the band through a funky, sprightly version where soul-jazz harmonics meet funky sweetness in a melodic romp guaranteed to put a smile on the most committed pessimist's face. But Earland isn't content to stay in the sunshine too long; he's got to get back to the underground where all of the real sounds happen first, and he accomplishes this with this acid-test funked-up version of "Black Gun." The trumpet playing of Elmer Cole here is astonishing, as it holds together the different sonorities of Vass and Adams; he steps out and pushes the front line into the stratosphere harmonically. While there isn't a weak second here, the finish of "Freedom jazz Dance," which moves directly into "Moonframe," deserves mention for its sheer over-the-top raucousness bordering on chaos that never, ever leaves the heart of the groove. This is a demanding gig -- it demands that you stay on your feet for its entirety. Make sure no one at your next throwdown has heart disease before you spin it.

Charles Earland - 1972 - Intensity

Charles Earland 

01. Happy Cause I'm Going Home
02. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
03. Cause I Love Her
04. Morgan

CD Bonus:
05. Lowdown
06. Speedball

Bass Trombone – Jack Jeffers (tracks: A1 to B1)
Congas – Sonny Morgan (tracks: A1 to B1)
Drums – Billy Cobham
Flute – Hubert Laws, Jr.
Guitar – Greg Miller (tracks: A1 to B1), John Fourie (tracks: A1 to B1)
Organ – Charles Earland
Trombone [Tenor] – Dick Griffin (tracks: A1 to B1)
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Jon Faddis (tracks: A1 to B1), Lee Morgan, Victor Paz (tracks: A1 to B1), Virgil Jones

Recorded at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ; February 17, 1972 (tracks 1 to 4) and February 16 & 17, 1972 (tracks 5 & 6).

For 1972's Intensity, Charles Earland's fifth of ten Prestige discs, the Mighty Burner seemed to be aiming toward something a little different than his usual collection of soulful tenor-organ jams. The presence of two songs from the rock group Chicago and a small trumpet-dominated horn section indicate that jazz-rock was the goal. The result, the LP's four original tracks plus two tracks from the same date originally released as part of Charles III, is one of his very best.

Unfortunately, though, Intensity has the notorious reputation as the last recording trumpeter Lee Morgan participated in (done two days before his girlfriend shot him to death). But Morgan is perhaps the least notable aspect of what makes the record work well. His playing here - and elsewhere at the time - sounds rather indifferent, sometimes sloppy and far less stellar than the glowing commentary he offered up on a string of excellent Blue Note records throughout the 1960s (evident on his own lackluster "Speedball," also included here).

What does stand out is Earland's strong performances, especially on two lesser known Chicago tunes ("Happy Cause I Love You" and a "Lowdown" that is not Boz Scaggs's more famous hit, as the disc's liners imply). Both are punctuated for effect with a needless fuzz guitar. But it doesn't detract from the attractive energy the Earland-Laws-Morgan triumvirate achieves.

Earland also contributes two of his own above average originals: the wonderfully melodic medium tempo swinger, "Cause I Love Her," and the cooking "Morgan" (named after the fact of death, but neither a Morgan feature nor specifically dedicated to him).

One notices, too, the interesting sound spectrum engineer Rudy Van Gelder achieves here. The occasional trumpet punctuation (arranged by Earland and the underrated trumpeter Virgil Jones) shimmers, even though its glory-hallelujah harshness seems a bit overheated. But the combo tracks are superbly captured. Compare the sound here to any one of Laws's Van Gelder engineered CTI dates. Then listen to any one of Morgan's Van Gelder engineered Blue Note dates. The difference is remarkable. Unfortunately, though, Billy Cobham's exceptionally vibrant drumming sounds as muffled and in-the-next-room as too many Van Gelder sessions did during that time.

The Prestige records Earland made between 1969 and 1974 remain his finest work. Intensity certainly ranks among the best, capturing a fine player at the very top of his game and easily recommended to those who seek meaningful organ jazz and of equal appeal to fans of the ever-diverse Hubert Laws.

Even if the performances on Intensity weren't excellent, this Charles Earland session would be required listening for jazz historians because it marked the last recorded documentation of Lee Morgan. Only two days after Intensity was recorded at Rudy Van Gelder's famous New Jersey studio on February 17, 1972, the influential trumpeter was shot and killed by a girlfriend at the age of 33. Refusing to confine himself to hard bop, Morgan was exploring soul-jazz and fusion during the last years of his life -- and his enthusiasm for soul-jazz is hard to miss on Earland's funky "'Cause I Love Her" as well as inventive interpretations of Chicago's "Happy 'Cause I'm Goin' Home" and the Shirelles' "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." Originally released on LP by Prestige, Intensity was out of print for many years but was reissued on CD in 1999 for Fantasy's Original Jazz Classics (OJC) series. For the CD, Fantasy added two bonus tracks: a passionate remake of Morgan's "Speedball" and a driving version of Chicago's "Lowdown," which shouldn't be confused with Boz Scaggs' 1976 hit. The importance of this reissue cannot be denied.

Charles Earland - 1972 - Charles III

Charles Earland 
Charles III

01. Charles III
02. Girl, You Need A Change Of Mind
03. Auburn Delight
04. Lowdown
05. My Favorite Things
06. Speedball

Congas – Larry Killian (tracks: A1 to A3)
Drums, Percussion – Darryl Washington (tracks: A1 to A3, B2)
Guitar, Percussion – Jack Turner (tracks: A1 to A3, B2)
Organ, Electric Piano, Soprano Saxophone, Percussion – Charles Earland
Tenor Saxophone, Flute [Alto] – Seldon Powell (tracks: A1 to A3, B2)
Trombone, Tuba – Jack Jeffers (tracks: A1 to A3, B2)
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Joe Shepley (tracks: A1 to A3, B2), Jon Faddis (tracks: A1 to B2), Richard Williams (tracks: A1 to A3, B2), Victor Paz (tracks: A1 to B2)

Between jazz and soul, keyboardist Charles Earland was one of the most succesfull artists on labels like Prestige to weave his own path - with the seriousness of jazz and the soulfulness of soul. THis is his best (and one of his rarest) albums. Who else could cover Eddie Kendricks, Lee Morgan and give Coltrane a run for his money with his version of Favourite Things.

Charles Earland - 1971 - Living Black!

Charles Earland 
Living Black!

01. Key Club Cookout 9:45
02. Westbound #9 9:25
03. Killer Joe 14:45
04. Milestones 4:40

Congas – Buddy Caldwell
Drums – Jesse Kilpatrick
Guitar – Maynard Parker
Organ – Charles Earland
Tenor Saxophone – Grover Washington Jr.
Trumpet – Gary Chandler

Recorded Live at the Key Club, Newark, N.J.

Recorded in 1970 at the Key Club, Living Black! is notable for many reasons, not the least of which is that it showcased Earland in an inspired live setting. From choosing his sidemen to the material to reading the audience to pure instrumental execution, there isn't a weak moment on this date, nor a sedentary one. Earland makes the band roll on all burners from the git and never lets up. Consisting of four extended tunes, there's the burning rhythm and stomp of "Key Club Cookout," which blazes with wisdom and funky fire. Earland's own soloing is revelatory, but it is the way he drags absolutely unexpected performances from his sidemen that makes him so special as a bandleader. Grover Washington never played like this again-- at least on a record--deep in the soul groove on his tenor, he turned it inside out, looking for new embouchures in which to get the sounds out of the horn. He dug deep inside his trick bag and left no one wanting. Likewise, guitarist Maynard Parker, who came from the Chicago blues school, gets to exercise that side of his West Side soul personality -- check out his break on "Westbound No. 9." "Killer Joe," the longest track on the record is swaggering blues strut. It features a slow, strolling horn line from Washington and trumpeter Gary Chandler that opens out onto a gorgeous pastoral frame before popping out with the blues feel once again. Parker's guitar playing fills all the places Earland chooses not to, so the band's density is total. There is a moving short version of "Milestones" that closes the set, but it wasn't even necessary. Everybody who was there had their minds blown long before.

Charles Earland - 1971 - Freakin' Off

Charles Earland 
Freakin' Off

01. Freakin' Off - Part One 2:10
02. Freakin' Off - Part Two 2:16
03. Strangers In The Night 2:30
04. Fly Me To The Moon 2:22
05. One For Lee 4:08
06. Stormy Monday Blues 2:50
07. Days Of Wine And Roses 3:01
08. Getting To Know You 3:26
09. Yeah Sir 2:30
10. Milestones 5:55

Charles Earland: Organ
Plus unnamed musicians

The LP’s ‘Freakin’ Off’ (Big Chance) and ‘Charles Earland Live’ (Trip) are virtually the same album. The sessions are mostly fake “live” recordings (though the take of ‘Strangers in the Night’ sounds like an actual live recording), but feature a heavily reverbed appearance of ‘Yas-Suh!’ (listed as ‘Yes Sir’ on the Trip LP). The Big Chance LP yielded one 45 ‘Freakin’ Off Pts 1&2’. I’ve never seen anything else on that label (same goes for Rare Bird). Trip (along with it’s associated label Springboard) was a NJ based cheapo reissue house with an MO of releasing an artists early/forgotten (Cher, the Yardbirds, Charles Mingus among others) work as if it was new. Their Earland LP continues that tradition.

 it is a completely fucked up version of some of the tracks from George Freeman's LP "Introducing George Freeman with Charlie Earland sitting in" on Giant Step GS005 (produced by Gus "Silk" Lacy, a Philly DJ). What the remixers have done is tried to cut George Freeman's part in the proceedings right down, so he's more or less inaudible, and make Earland's part more prominent. A couple of different tracks are included in "Freakin' off", I think, but I can't be sure as the thing's too effin' awful to do a back to back comparison.

If you see the George Freeman issue, get that one, it sounds good. (And there are also a couple of tracks with Jimmy McGriff sittin' in uncredited.)

Charles Earland - 1970 - Black Drops

Charles Earland 
Black Drops

01. Sing A Simple Song 5:45
02. Don't Say Goodbye 7:03
03. Lazybird 7:12
04. Letha 7:16
05. Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head 3:45
06. Buck Green 7:12

Drums – Jimmy Turner
Guitar – Maynard Parker
Organ – Charlie Earland
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Jimmy Heath
Trombone – Clayton Pruden
Trumpet – Virgil Jones

“The Mighty Burner” isn’t the kind of moniker bestowed on just any man. Charles Earland earned it by cultivating one of the grittiest and greasiest organ attacks of the early Seventies. His skills behind the B-3 are in full effect on this smoldering slab of fusion-laced funk from '70. Regular sidemen like Pruden and Jones take their place beside surprise reed wild card Jimmy Heath in the horn frontline and dig into an eclectic set of standards from the jazz, pop and obligatory funk spheres. On the opening flame out foray through Sly Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song,” rhythmic suspensions fuel tight interplay between Parker’s chicken scratch fretwork and the leader’s oily lubrication of the melody. Turner sounds slightly possessed behind his kit, reeling off the backbeats and rising press rolls with forceful swinging sticks. Grunts and shouts sound above the grooving din.

The ballad “Don’t Say Goodbye” bleeds off much of the intensity, but it retains the underlying funk thanks chiefly to Turner’s fluid beats. Parker’s ensuing Spanish-inflected solo serves as centerpiece, and it’s a statement that references more than a little early Santana in its fruition. Trane’s “Lazy Bird” offers a different tack and the band devours the hard bop staple in a manner faithful to the composer’s original reading on Blue Train. Heath is the center of attention throughout a melodically charged solo that sails above Earland’s fat comping. Jones brassy phrases follow suit and offer a crisp contrast. Funk returns at full muster on the Earland original “Letha” that sounds at once anthemic and groove-suffused. Counterpoint is king on this cut and the quick overlays and interplay are one of the most satisfying aspects of the entire album. Overall the feeling is more of a live concert than a studio date, testament to both Earland’s energy and his ability at inspiring his men to turn things up a notch. Acid jazz antiquarians are strongly advised to seek this album out.

Charles Earland - 1969 - Black Talk!

Charles Earland 
Black Talk!

01. Black Talk 7:50
02. The Mighty Burner 3:04
03. Here Comes Charlie 8:15
04. Aquarius 8:00
05. More Today Than Yesterday 11:10

Drums – Idris Muhammad
Guitar – Melvin Sparks
Organ – Charles Earland
Tenor Saxophone – Houston Person
Trumpet – Virgil Jones

Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 15, 1969.

Charles Earland came into his own at the tail-end of the great 1960s wave of soul-jazz organists, gaining a large following and much airplay with a series of albums for the Prestige label. While heavily indebted to Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff, Earland came armed with his own swinging, technically agile, light-textured sound on the keyboard and one of the best walking-bass pedal techniques in the business. Though not an innovative player in his field, Earland burned with the best of them when he was on.

Earland actually started his musical experiences surreptitiously on his father's alto sax as a kid, and when he was in high school, he played baritone in a band that also featured fellow Philadelphians Pat Martino on guitar, Lew Tabackin on tenor, and yes, Frankie Avalon on trumpet. After playing in the Temple University band, he toured as a tenor player with McGriff for three years, became infatuated with McGriff's organ playing, and started learning the Hammond B-3 at intermission breaks. When McGriff let him go, Earland switched to the organ permanently, forming a trio with Martino and drummer Bobby Durham. He made his first recordings for Choice in 1966, then joined Lou Donaldson for two years (1968-1969) and two albums before being signed as a solo artist to Prestige. Earland's first album for Prestige, Black Talk!, became a best-selling classic of the soul-jazz genre; a surprisingly effective cover of the Spiral Starecase's pop/rock hit "More Today Than Yesterday" from that LP received saturation airplay on jazz radio in 1969. He recorded eight more albums for Prestige, one of which featured a young unknown Philadelphian named Grover Washington, Jr., then switched to Muse before landing contracts with Mercury and Columbia. By this time, the organ trio genre had gone into eclipse, and in the spirit of the times, Earland acquired some synthesizers and converted to pop/disco in collaboration with his wife, singer/songwriter Sheryl Kendrick. Kendrick's death from sickle-cell anemia in 1985 left Earland desolate, and he stopped playing for awhile, but a gig at the Chickrick House on Chicago's South Side in the late '80s brought him out of his grief and back to the Hammond B-3. Two excellent albums in the old soul-jazz groove for Milestone followed, and the '90s found him returning to the Muse label. Earland died of heart failure on December 11, 1999, the morning after playing a gig in Kansas City; he was 58.

Charles Earland had a strong affinity for the organ, though he didn't start on the instrument. He began his career as a saxophonist, playing in groups with organists like Jimmy McGriff and Gene Ludwig before making his unconventional instrumental switch, eventually joining Lou Donaldson's group. His playing exploits the organ's capacity for sustain and timbral effects (though on "More Today Than Yesterday" his fleet playing often sounds like a transposed piano solo). 

The soul-jazz format tends toward popularity, even populism. Indeed, Black Talk! was a hit record in its day; DJs played the title cut and "More Today Than Yesterday," in spite of their length, even before Prestige had released radio-friendly edited singles. Earland's group nevertheless avoids the narrow clichés of the genre. While they may not have pushed the format as far as their contemporaries in Tony Williams' Lifetime, the ensemble sound is nevertheless subtly an advance on the early-sixties style in which Earland received his apprenticeship. 

This is mostly due to the leader's playing, and to that of guitarist Melvin Sparks and drummer Idris Muhammad. Sparks reminds us of the organic link between the blues and the avant- garde (like James Blood Ulmer or Pete Cosey), his scratchy playing and always- approximate timing adding delightful texture to a format that could otherwise be conservative and monochromatic. Muhammad, meanwhile, can provide a driving rock 'n' roll beat, or a pleasing shuffle; but his drumming on "Aquarius" could almost be mistaken for Art Blakey's. 

The contributions of tenor saxophonist Houston Person and trumpeter Virgil Jones, though competent, are often merely ornamental rather than substantive. Sympathetic conga accompaniment on a couple of tracks is furnished by Newark convenience store owner Buddy Caldwell ("the musicians dug him," according to Bob Porter's liner notes). 

The set list is quirky but successful. "Aquarius," from Hair, cannot help but sound a little kitschy, but the modal groove in the middle of the cut over which the solos are played, is among the record's finest moments, and Person sounds more imaginative here than elsewhere. One-hit wonder Spiral Starecase's "More Today Than Yesterday" is not Black Talk!'s most adventurous moment, but it is certainly the most winsome.