I browse the daily listing of jazz birthdays each day not only for whose birthday it is that particular day, but also to discover new music. Many times I select who I read about by the instrument they play. Other times I select someone with a foreign sounding name, figuring that will lead me to explorations of jazz music beyond America’s shores. Tunisian born Wajdi Cherif is a perfect example of this type of choice. I read about, and spent time listening to Charles Earland’s music this morning, based on the instrument he plays – Hammond B3 organ!!
Charles Earland was born in Philadelphia on May 24, 1941. He began his jazz journey playing saxophone and played baritone sax, while in high school in a band that featured fellow Philadelphians Pat Martino on guitar, Lew Tabackinon tenor, and future teen idol, Frankie Avalon on trumpet! After playing in the Temple University band Earland toured with Jimmy McGriff for three years. It was after he was let go by McGriff that Earland switched to playing the organ and formed an organ trio that featured Pat Martino on guitar and drummer Bobby Durham. He released his first albums for Choice in 1966. In 1968 and 69 Earland was a member of Lou Donaldson‘s band, after which he signed with Prestige as a solo artist. His first release for Prestige was Black Talk and that was the album that I listened to, and loved, this morning. The tracks on the album were effective jazz covers of hits of the time. Scott Yanow at AllMusic writes this about the album….
This CD reissue of a Prestige date is one of the few successful examples of jazz musicians from the late ’60s taking a few rock and pop songs and turning them into creative jazz. Organist Charles Earland and his sextet, which includes trumpeter Virgil Jones, Houston Person, on tenor and guitarist Melvin Sparks, perform a variation of “Eleanor Rigby” titled “Black Talk,” two originals, a surprisingly effective rendition of “Aquarius,” and a classic rendition of “More Today Than Yesterday.” Fans of organ combos are advised to pick up this interesting set. AllMusic
After listening to the album, I heartily agree!! Earland went on to record eight more albums for Prestige, one of them featuring young then unknown Grover Washington Jr. He then switched to Muse, followed by a switch Mercury and Columbia. By the mid-70s, as the audience for organ trio music was dwindling, Earland teamed with his wife singer/songwriter Sheryl Kendrick to produce a series of pop/disco albums. His wife’s death from sickle-cell anemia in 1985, left him despondent and it was several years before he shed his grief and brought himself and his Hammond B3 back to his roots, recording two soul-jazz albums on Millstone and then several on the Muse label before his untimely death from heart failure after a gig in Kansas City in 1999. He was only 58 years old!!.
Richard S. Ginell at All Music writes this about Earland’s organ styling….
….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. Read More
So Happy Birthday to Charles Earland and let’s listen and watch Charles and George Duke perform “When Johnny comes Marching Home” ….while this song isn’t from Black Talk I thought it was great to hear Charles and watch him perform!!