Saxophonist Charles Lloyd is a forward-thinking musician's musician whose supreme improvisational talents and interest in cross-pollinating jazz with rock as well as non-Western styles of music during the '60s and '70s established him as one of the key figures in the development of fusion and world music.
This single-CD reissue pairs two blaxploitation soundtracks by different artists: 1975's Cornbread, Earl and Me, composed by Donald Byrd and performed by the Blackbyrds, and 1973's The Dynamite Brothers, composed and performed by Charles Earland. Cornbread, Earl and Me, which featured the movie debut of Larry Fishburne, is serviceable, routine soul-jazz background film music, varying between funk-jazz-rock vamps (such as the Sly Stone-styled instrumental workout "The One-Eye Two-Step"), snazzy jazzy bits for action scenes, and sentimental orchestrated interludes. There are also occasional vocal numbers in a pedestrian mid-'70s soul-jazz-rock mode, such as "The Cornbread Theme."
This two-fer CD pairs 1972's Live at the Lighthouse with the less impressive, though still worthy, 1974 album Kharma, which was recorded at that year's Montreux Jazz Festival. As the head of a sextet on Live at the Lighthouse, Earland spearheaded some first-class soul-jazz, which integrated some funk and rock of the early '70s without sounding like a watered-down cocktail of all those styles (as many other soul-jazz-pop albums of the time did). The horn section of James Vass on sax and Elmer Coles on trumpet leaned more toward soul than jazz, as heard on the opening instrumental cover of Sly & the Family Stone's "Smilin'." The Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" wasn't the greatest tune to attempt, though Earland gamely put it into a boppish swing arrangement.
Reissue with the latest 2016 remastering. Comes with liner notes. One of Charles Earland's sweet albums from his years at Columbia Records – done in a mode that's much more R&B than his earliest work, but in a style that's still A-OK with us! The groove here is greatly helped out by arrangements from Tom Washington, Weldon Irvine, and Marcus Miller – all great talents for mixing soul into Earland's jazzier keyboards – yet in a way that still keeps all of the best elements intact! Many of the tracks feature vocals, but in a gently soulful way that glides in nicely alongside the keys – and speaking of keys, Charles plays Fender Rhodes and Arp here in addition to his usual organ.
One of the greatest albums ever from organist Charles Earland – a double-length set that's filled with spiritual, soaring grooves! The style here is a perfect blend of the rougher soul jazz of Earland's roots with some of the spacier styles of his later recordings – served up in a sound that's majestic and powerful, almost with an indie soul jazz sort of vibe overall! There's an immediate urgency to most numbers that's totally undeniable – a lesson learned from the electric experiments of Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis, but fused down into a core essence – then let loose on a soaring journey to the heavens.
Although Funk Fantastique is a somewhat thrown-together affair, the music presented on the album represents solid work by organist/keyboardist Charles Earland and company. The material at the center of the album (tracks four through seven) was originally released as Charles III in 1972, and the surrounding tracks are previously unreleased. Since the unreleased material comes from two different sessions, three different ensembles grace Funk Fantastique.
A definite departure from the type of earthy, groove-oriented soul-jazz he usually embraced, Leaving This Planet is perhaps Charles Earland's most ambitous album – not necessarily his best, but certainly his most surprising. 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 (reissued on a 79-minute CD in 1993) 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.
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."
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. Black Talk! went on to become an enormous hit, spending most of 1970 on the best-seller charts.