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."
In a year notable by the too-high incidence of jazz losses, Charles Earland quietly left this planet on Saturday, December 11, 1999. Known as the Mighty Burner for the intense way he commanded the Hammond B-3, the always working, too-heavy 58-year-old Earland made his departure via heart failure following one last performance in Kansas City.
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.
The young organist Charles Earland converted the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” into an anthem called “Black Talk” and came up with one of the huge soul-jazz hits of the early Seventies. In this album, Earland worked the same magic with two other pop songs, “Aquarius” and “More Today than Yesterday,” giving them the urgency and forward movement of R&B but managing to inject them with jazz values. He was greatly aided by a pair of soloists—trumpeter Virgil Jones and tenor saxophonist Houston Person—who added fuel to Earland’s fiery concept. Guitarist Melvin Sparks and the quintessential soul jazz drummer Idris Muhammad helped keep the blaze going.
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.