Ronnie Earl: Healing Time

Somewhere along the line, former Roomful of Blues guitarist Ronnie Earl began flirting with jazz. On Healing Time (Telarc 83490; 64:23), he once again steps into greasy organ quartet territory with good intentions. But measured against the quintessential statements of Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Pat Martino, Grant Green and Jimmy Ponder, his own contributions don’t hold up. Jazz is not licks. And no matter how good your time might be, a few well-placed, oft-repeated licks are no substitute for hip chord substitutions and real flowing, daring improvisation. Earl’s offerings in the jazz arena -“Churchin’,” with Jimmy McGriff on Hammond B-3 organ, Duke Pearson’s “Idle Moments” and Pharoah Sanders’ “Thembi”-sound pedestrian by comparison to the giants of this genre. He sounds much more at home on Delta blues numbers like Muddy Waters’ “Catfish Blues,” slow blues like “Blues on a Sunday” or his own “Blues for Shawn” or on raucous, hard-driving shuffles like “Lunch at R & M’s.”