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13 Aug 2016

Charles Earland “Black Talk! “ 1969 US Jazz Funk







Charles Earland “Black Talk! “ 1969 US Jazz Funk

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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 Earlandand 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. ..by allmusic….

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.

all.about.jazz

Charles Earland’s Pop Interpretation Methodology

Jazz is, and always has been, a music fueled by other people’s compositions. Time-tested standards like “Summertime” and “Autumn Leaves” provide a fertile ground for improvisers. Contributions from jazz luminaries make up another large portion of cover material. But with Black Talk!, organist Charles Earland rejects this jazz hierarchy—the tradition of playing only serious or old tunes—and looks to a list with a more contemporary feel: the ‘60s popular music charts.

Black Talk!—a re-issue of Earland’s 1969 Prestige debut, re-mastered by Rudy Van Gelder—presents the organist’s approach to the cover song: superficial, passively involved, and full-out homage. Three tunes on the album each represent a different aspect of his cover strategy. Earland gives voice to his philosophy with the help of a sextet featuring Houston Person on tenor, trumpeter Virgil Jones, and guitarist Melvin Sparks

“More Today than Yesterday” represents the first level of Earland’s interpretation: mimicry. The song was a hit in 1969 for the one-hit-wonders Spiral Starecase, and on Black Talk!, Earland plays the original melody pitch for pitch. He gives this poppy love song a standard reading: the tempo is the same, and the only huge difference is in the added solo sections. A short, atmospheric, muted trumpet improvisation introduces the song, and Earland enters with the melody. After nine minutes of solos, the melody comes back and the tune fades out. It’s a simple structure and is fairly easy to follow.
If “Yesterday” represents the straight rendition—the equivalent of a Spiral Starecase cover band, instruments supplanting vocal lines—“Aquarius” is a step toward creativity. Originally featured in the 1967 musical Hair, “Aquarius” is a song about free love and embraces a communal, earthy feeling through its ensemble refrain. Earland takes this idea of freedom, and starts the tune with a floating samba pattern alternated with a laid-back swing beat. The melody is harder to follow than on the original—a solo break is added in the middle of the chorus—but it’s still the same piece.

The most interesting tune on the release, the cover Earland was striving for, is the title track. “Black Talk”—a reworking of the 1966 Beatles song, “Eleanor Rigby”—is the record’s crowning achievement. It’s a full realization of the cover song as an homage to the original artist. In the end, Earland’s version is connected to the original only by feel. This hints at his respect for the Beatles. Instead of regurgitating a melody and adding a few solo breaks, he took the time to compose, to make something new.On “Black Talk”, Earland focuses on a simple three-note theme, a succession of pitches not in the original. Off-beat bass drum hits wedded to a short hi-hat punch—boom-ti boom-ti boom-ti boom-ti—follows the opening phrase. This forward motion takes the idea of the marching string parts from “Eleanor Rigby”, and is the most apparent similarity. Beyond that, Earland leaves only the Beatles’ chord progression intact, opening each verse with a quick tremolo followed by a smooth descending melody

The solo section is the first chance for his sidemen to stretch out, and Person, on tenor, takes the tune as his chance to shine. While Earland is a masterful accompanist—alternately providing gospel shout and short chordal bursts—and his solos are a study in laid-back style; he mostly creates atmosphere. Person, on the other hand, shouts his themes with a supported belly-tone. It’s the sound of a tree: tall, imposing and forceful. This tone—an aural perception of razor-cut cane, the harsh choke of a heavy, dry reed put into sound—is juxtaposed against Earland’s liquid tones. Person is the fire, the heat to Earland’s smooth lava flow.

It’s ironic that the best track on what is essentially a cover album is an interpretation that sounds almost nothing like the original. This wasn’t imitation, and it wasn’t plagiarism. This was taking an idea—a sound that reverberated with Earland—and transforming it to his own aesthetic. To Earland, creation, not imitation, was the highest form of flattery….by pop matters………

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-70s. 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 Sparksand the quintessential soul jazz drummer Idris Muhammad helped keep the blaze going. It is not coincidence that his blues composition, and Earland himself, were called “The Mighty Burner.” Black Talk! went on to become an enormous hit, spending most of 1970 on the best-seller charts. ….

Musicians:
Charles Earland (organ)
Melvin Sparks (guitar)
Houston Person (tenor saxophone)
Virgil Jones (trumpet)
Idris Muhammad (drums)

1. Black Talk
2. The Mighty Burner
3. Here Comes Charlie
4. Aquarius
5. More Today Than Yesterday

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