Occasionally, an improviser will manage to come up with something that has as much commercial appeal as it does artistic integrity. Charles Earland accomplished this in 1969, when his jazz interpretation of The Spiral Staircase's blue-eyed pop/soul hit "More Today Than Yesterday" became a hit among R&B audiences. For all its accessibility, the Philadelphia organist's soul-jazz was faithful to jazz's spirit of improvisation and its sense of spontaneity.
Out of print for more than a few years, Earland's 1970 live date "Living Black" (which was recorded at the Key Club in Newark, New Jersey) makes its long overdue debut on CD thanks to Fantasy Records' Original Jazz Classics (OJC) series. One of the main reasons to buy this CD is the fat, earthy tenor sax of a young Grover Washington, Jr., whose earthy, down home blowing on Benny Golson's "Killer Joe," Miles Davis' "Milestones" and "More Today Than Yesterday" shows that his sound was already fully developed. The names of Earland's other sideman on this album (including guitarist Maynard Parker and trumpeter Gary Chandler) may not ring a bell, but they're definitely worth noting.
"Living Black" is not only historically important (this was allegedly the first time Washington was recorded) it also swings without apology.