This Rudy Van Gelder, recorded 1969 date, only Charles Earland’s second as a leader, was the set that catapulted him onto the international stage. Recorded at a time when organ combos were all the rage, Earland became something of a superstar almost overnight based on this extraordinary five song collection.
Earland cut his teeth as a tenor player in the band of jazz organist supreme Jimmy McGriff. It was when he left McGriff’s band, where he had been woodshedding on the B3, that he devoted his energy and attention exclusively to the big Hammond organ. The "burner," as he was known, was a hit from the git. He is joined here by tenor saxophonist Houston Person and trumpeter Virgil Jones, first-call horn players of the day, as well as the wonderful rhythm team of drummer Idris Muhammad and guitarist Melvin Sparks. Buddy Caldwell is on congas, as well. Unlike congas on many recordings from the 1960s, he is never over-miced or intrusive, but rather adds nice flourishes. No bassist was on the session, as Earland’s mighty organ carried that duty in tandem with his searing lead lines.
The opening title cut is a tour de force that features all players judiciously, though Earland is clearly the main attraction. Sparks is particularly brilliant here, weaving throughout the propulsive and infectious organ and the sizzling horns. Person takes an impressive solo, followed by the crisp Jones before Sparks works his impressive magic. Throughout, Earland burns. When he takes an extended solo, the energy level is palpable.
"The Mighty Burner" is most notable for being too brief. The level of playing on this three minute opus is spectacular. The following "Here Comes Charlie" is funky and deep in the pocket with Earland letting out all the stops.
"Aquarius" and "More Today Than Yesterday" were pop tunes of the day. Given how many jazz players have gone after pop tunes as enticements to a non-jazz audience, these were pop tunes given wholly impressive jazz interpretations. Whether the pop followers came or not isn’t clear, but the jazz audience certainly was given a pair of first-rate performances in these tunes. The former features stratospheric trumpet work, tight tenor playing, and strong organ all underpinned by extraordinary drumming. On the latter, the groove is late-night and tight. The arrangement here, as throughout the entire program, is exquisite, as well.
When Charles Earland died in 1999, the jazz world lost a major figure. This jazz classic keeps his well-deserved reputation alive and remains his greatest calling card. One of the standout albums of 1969, this hits that same height as a RVG re-mastered re-issue, never sounding dated - just burnin’!