Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 15, 1969.
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 Earland and 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.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Charles Earland - Black Talk!
Charlie Earland has referred to himself as a product of the ghetto. In his particular case, the ghetto referred to is South Philadelphia. Still, Charlie reflects the honesty and vision of modern Black men and there is more pride than resentment when he discusses his upbringing. One gains the impression that he has strong roots in his community and that his music speaks not only for himself but for his home turf. It wasn't by accident that his album was titled Black Talk! The evolutionary process which led to the making of this album began on May 24, 1941 when Charlie was born. His interest in music started early and by the time he was a teenager he played alto sax with a good deal of proficiency. Soon he picked up on tenor and baritone as well. Among his high school classmates were guitarist Pat Martino and reedman Lew Tabackin and not far from his house in South Philly was the home where the Heath brothers-Percy, Jimmy, and Tootie-were brought up. Thus, the scene was musically stimulating.
Music proved to be a lure for the young reedman and before he could finish school, he took to the road. His first major gig was as a tenorman in Jimmy McGriff's combo at age 17 and this association lasted until he fronted his first band, about two years later, with Gene Ludwig on organ. Later he worked with Pat Martino, prior to Pat's joining Willis Jackson.
The switch to organ came in 1963 and Charlie credits the late drummer Specs Wright with encouraging him to make the move. When Charlie first started playing, he was a long way from being a polished performer. As he puts it, "I could play the blues and 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home' and that was it."
By 1965, Charlie had a quartet and he still thinks very highly of this band which had Joe Jefferson on tenor, Jimmy Ponder on guitar and Jesse Kilpatrick on drums. The group lasted for more than a year when lack of work caused the band to break up.
The next association was one which brought Charlie his greatest recognition to date; featured organist with Lou Donaldson. Anyone who caught the Donaldson band during 1968-1969 will hardly forget the happy spirit of the group. Pencils and scorecards could not capture the feeling that this band achieved. Charlie was featured on Lou's Blue Note albums-Black and Proud and Hot Dog-and his powerful drive was a contributing factor to the success of those albums. Charlie departed the Donaldson band in December of 1969 to resume leading his own group-a trio-now working in Philadelphia.
Charlie is hardly a newcomer to the recording studio but on this album, he really had a chance to play material which he feels strongly about. Of the performances of his sidemen, he was happy with everyone. The album combines the rhythm tandem of Melvin Sparks and Idris Muhammad (nee Leo Morris) who were the Donaldson recording rhythm section and Houston Person and Virgil Jones, who have formed the front line for recent Prestige sets by Sonny Phillips and Don Patterson.
The opener and title track "Black Talk" is an Earland invention which has its basis in "Eleanor Rigby." Jazzmen have, for years, taken material from outside their own idiom and reworked it to suit their needs. This is an excellent example of redoing overworked material so that it remains fresh for the soloists.
"The Mighty Burner" is a dedication by Charlie to Philadelphia disc jockey Sonny Hopson of What. Sonny has been an Earland booster for some time and the tune, a brief driving blues, gives the soloists a chance to do some burning of their own.
"Here Comes Charlie" is more contemporary and is reminiscent of several lines recorded by the Lou Donaldson band. Melvin Sparks shines here.
Side B begins with "Aquarius," perhaps the best known tune from Hair, and it is a grooving performance all the way. From the flighty opening of the horns, into the various breaks, through the solos and on to Charlie's extended trill.
There is something special about "More Today Than Yesterday" which is difficult to pin down. Perhaps it is the tune itself. Normally a popular rock opus doesn't lend itself to a driving 4/4 but, in this case, there are good changes to blow on and Charlie stretches out. He and Sparks are the only soloists in this eleven minute performance and, in all the times I have listened to it, it never seems as long as it is. A good test of being able to keep the listener's interest.
Charlie Earland makes no pretense about where he's at. He is a straight ahead guy and a straight ahead musician. When you ask him about music, he is likely to respond, "You can feel it." Feeling is paramount in music. Without it a successful performance is damn near impossible while with good feeling present the sky is the limit.
Good jazz feeling results in music which is conversational. I'm reminded of a famous tenorman who, when explaining the solo routine of a song, frequently begins by stating "I'll say about three choruses. . ." I'm certain that this is no mere slip of the tongue because non-verbal communication is just as important as rhetoric any day. And Black Talk! is the functioning of feeling at its most soulful level.
-Bob Porter (from the original album liner)