131

Charles Earland: Black Talk!

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

Sign in to view read count
Charles Earland: Black Talk! One of the all-time classic soul-jazz records gets its turn at remastering by Rudy van Gelder, the original engineer of the 1969 session.

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.

Track Listing: Black Talk; The Mighty Burner; Here Comes Charlie; Aquarius; More Today Than Yesterday.

Personnel: Charles Earland: organ; Virgil Jones: trumpet; Houston Person: tenor saxophone; Melvin Sparks: guitar; Idris Muhammad: drums; Buddy Caldwell: congas.

Title: Black Talk! | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Prestige Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Thick as Thieves CD/LP/Track Review Thick as Thieves
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Dream Within A Dream CD/LP/Track Review Dream Within A Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Live At The High Noon CD/LP/Track Review Live At The High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017
Read As It Should Be: Ballads 2 CD/LP/Track Review As It Should Be: Ballads 2
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 21, 2017
Read Karoujite CD/LP/Track Review Karoujite
by John Eyles
Published: June 21, 2017
Read "The Long Slog" CD/LP/Track Review The Long Slog
by Dave Wayne
Published: January 11, 2017
Read "The Failure of Words" CD/LP/Track Review The Failure of Words
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 24, 2017
Read "Live at the Blue Whale" CD/LP/Track Review Live at the Blue Whale
by Phillip Woolever
Published: May 9, 2017
Read "My Foolish Heart" CD/LP/Track Review My Foolish Heart
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: March 28, 2017
Read "Beninghove's Hangmen Plays Led Zeppelin" CD/LP/Track Review Beninghove's Hangmen Plays Led Zeppelin
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: March 23, 2017
Read "Awakening" CD/LP/Track Review Awakening
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: January 5, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.