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Charles Earland: Jazz Organ Summit

Would you expect a disc which on the surface promises a positively rump rollin’ session of down-home organ jazz, once a staple of nearly every black community in America (which is where this was recorded, smack dab in the heart of Chicago’s South Side at the DuSable Museum), to begin with a ballad tempo-on “Cherokee” no less? Well, that’s exactly what this historic summit meeting does, and it’s a curious way to begin, as a showcase of one of Jim Rotundi’s Freddie Hubbard-inspired trumpet. One imagines this was the date’s way of building to the fireworks that follow-but the rule of thumb, folks, is to be hot from jumpstreet. Spank the producer, though it’s not his fault that this is how the concert opened.

From there it’s the good gravy of organ funk all the way, as displayed through the magic of the big box by four legends of the sound: Charles Earland, Dr. Lonnie Smith, the late Johnny Hammond Smith (making his last performance before succumbing to cancer), and Jimmy McGriff. They work with the same rhythm section, Hammond Smith, McGriff, and Earland are afforded two tracks apiece, Lonnie delivers the extended take on “Cherokee,” and the capper is a four-organ blowout. The pure, soulful feeling of this date is palpable and real on the surface, as is the joyous call and response of the audience; this must have been some concert to see. Unfortunately, the recorded result is a bit flat in the sonic department, requiring stereo adjustments by the listener. Chalk this one up as mainly a historical keepsake documenting the classic jazz organ approach. Beyond the nature of the date, there’s nothing particularly special about it as a recording.

Originally Published