Jazz/funk organist Charles Earland, who died on December 11, 1999 of a heart attack at age 58, began his musical career playing saxophone in a high school dance band. Earland switched to the Hammond B-3 in 1963 and like so many who have taken up that instrument he would never scale the heights or escape the comparisons to organ maestro Jimmy Smith. However, Earland did enjoy limited commercial success with a series of fine records during the late-60s and early-70s on the Prestige label. The Almighty Burner gathers together 11 tracks from his stint as a Muse recording artist. It includes cuts from Smokin’ (1976), In The Pocket (1981), Whip Appeal (1990) and Unforgettable (1991). Apart from soprano/alto saxophonist Houston Person, who appears on eight tunes, the sidemen vary from session to session. Of note, rising tenor star Eric Alexander made his recording debut on the 1991 Unforgettable session and ended up working with Earland till 1998. The highlight of The Almighty Burner is a reprise of Earland’s best-selling cover of The Spiral Staircase’s pop/rock hit More Today Than Yesterday, a tune that originally appeared in 1969 on his Black Talk! album. Whether playing funk, pop, bop or straight-ahead jazz, Earland truly was the “Mighty Burner.” ### (out of four)
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