musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Charles Earland

I’m a big fan of the funky organ sound of jazz musicians such as Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Reuben Wilson, and Jimmy McGriff. I recently discovered another jazz organist that I like a lot; Charles Earland. I found a copy of his 1970 album, Black Talk!, in the bins at the Gram store in Bangkok’s Siam Paragon. It was reissued by Prestige Records in 2006, in a distribution agreement with the Concord Music Group, and remastered by the original engineer on the recordings, Rudy Van Gelder.


Earland isn’t as well known as most of the Blue Note and Verve organists who came to prominence in the 1960s and early 70s, but I think he should be. Based on Black Talk!, this guy is top shelf stuff. His versions of “Aquarius” and the eleven-minute workout on “More Today than Yesterday” are positively oozing with funky energy and dynamics. Earland first gained notice playing with Lou Donaldson in the late 60s, before he signed to Prestige and began recording his own albums. He continued to record for various labels in the following decades, before passing away in 1999 at the age of 58. His nickname was “The Mighty Burner,” which is also one of the tracks on Black Talk! I was so happy with Black Talk! that I recently ordered a copy of Anthology, a two-CD compilation that has 22 tracks from his 70s and 80s “jazz funk” period. My next mission is to find a copy of Intensity, an acclaimed album he recorded with Lee Morgan and Billy Cobham. Gotta be hot stuff.


My first introduction into the world of funky jazz Hammond B-3 organ players came in the early-80s when I first heard Jack McDuff’s Down Home Style album. And yes, that was back in the pre-digital days of vinyl records. Take a look at the cover and you’ll know why it caught my eye: a plateful of barbecued ribs, collard greens, beans, and corn on the cob. And the funky grooves on the album were just as greasy and tasty. I almost felt like licking my fingers when the record finished playing! McDuff (sometimes the credits listed him as “Brother Jack” and other times just “Jack McDuff”) recorded dozens of other fine albums, including some that featured other prominent musicians such as George Benson, Kenny Burrell, and Gene Harris.

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