Soul-Jazz Organist Charles Earland Dies At 58
Charles Earland, who made his mark
among the soul-jazz organists in the
1960s and modified his sound to
embrace the funk-jazz 1970s, died of
a heart attack Saturday (Dec. 11)
after a performance in Kansas City,
Mo. He was 58.
Earland started his musical career as a saxophonist, but
switched to organ in the 1960s and later recorded a
series of successful albums on the Prestige, Mercury and
Muse labels. When the Hammond B-3 sound with which he
was associated began to sound too dated, Earland made the
canny decision to augment his sound with synthesizers and a
heavier funk beat.
Said organist Jimmy McGriff, with whom Earland first became
interested in playing jazz organ, "Charlie was the kind of guy,
if you showed him something today, tomorrow he'd be
playing it just like you'd play it. He was a good player and a
very good musician. He was one of the guys, like 'Groove'
Holmes -- if you'd listen to him, he'd have you tapping your
Said guitarist Pat Martino, who knew Earland since high
school, "Charles, he was one of the most compassionate
people who's been in the business. His playing is just superb.
As a person, he was just a wonderful human being."
Charles Earland was born in Philadelphia, May 24, 1941, and
took up the alto saxophone in high school -- with
fame-bound classmates Martino, Bobby Timmons and Lew
Tabackin. After attending Temple University, Earland joined
up as a saxophonist with McGriff's band, but became
enamored of the Hammond B-3 sound and would experiment
with the organ during intermissions. By 1963, Earland was
leading his own band as an organist. He joined saxophonist
Lou Donaldson in 1968, and played a crucial role in some of
Donaldson's highly respected Blue Note Records releases.
Earland also played with such soul-jazz artists as Joe
"Boogaloo" Jones, Rusty Bryant and Willis "Gator" Jackson.
Earland's first solo album was the 1969 Soul Crib on Choice
Records, which led to a contract with Prestige Records. On
his Prestige releases he was accompanied by such noted
artists as Lee
Morgan, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard,
Hubert Laws, Houston Person, Billy Harper and Jon Faddis.
His repertoire of original compositions and jazz standards was
often augmented by his own adaptations of soul and pop hits
like "Aquarius," "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," "Will You
Still Love Me Tomorrow?," "More
Today Than Yesterday," and
"We've Only Just Begun."
Earland's career reached a new plateau with his 1973
recording space-funk album Leaving
This Planet, which
offered a psychedelic-soul style that was also followed by
such '70s organists as Lonnie Liston Smith. As an
enthusiastic convert to the jazz-rock fusion movement of
the era, Earland kept musical company with some of its
young lions: Grover Washington, Jr., John Abercrombie, Eric
Gale, Billy Cobham, Michal Urbaniak, Patrick Gleeson, and
Norman Connors. Earland also recorded the soundtrack to
1974 martial arts film Dynamite Brothers and contributed to
the score of Ralph Bakshi's 1972 R.Crumb-based cartoon
In the 1980s, Earland ventured further into electronic
pop-soul in recordings with his wife, vocalist/songwriter
Sheryl Kendrick. When Kendrick died of sickle-cell anemia in
1985, Earland dropped out of music. He was coaxed back
onto the scene in 1988 and resumed his career with a series
of albums for Milestone, Muse and Cannonball Records.
Charles Earland is survived by his second wife Sheila Earland.
No funeral or memorial plans have yet been announced.
organist Charles Earland dead
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Reuters) - Jazz-funk organist Charles Earland,
who helped revive interest in the traditional Hammond B-3 organ,
has died of a heart attack at age 58, his booking agent said Thursday.
Earland was found dead in his hotel room Saturday morning, still
his clothes, hours after an appearance at the Blue Room jazz club
Kansas City, agent Abbey Hoffer said.
The Philadelphia-born Earland began his musical career in
a high school dance band playing with such future jazz
notables as guitarist Pat Martino, saxophonist Lew
Tabackin and pianist Bobby Timmons. The band's
trumpeter went on to gain fame as a pop singer, the teen
idol Frankie Avalon.
Earland later took an interest in the Hammond B-3, the
granddaddy of electric organs, while playing tenor and
baritone sax in a band with legendary organist Jimmy
McGriff. He made the switch to organ in 1963 and
initially made his mark on that instrument in saxophonist's
Lou Donaldson' band, where he stayed until 1969, then
formed his own trio.
His first album, "Soul Crib," got relatively little notice, but
his second release, "Black Talk!," was a commercial
success that made him a star organist and landed him a
long-term contract with Prestige records.
Earland also toured overseas playing soprano sax,
synthesizer, electric piano and organ at numerous
European jazz festivals.
As synthesizers and electric pianos gained popularity in
the 1970s, Earland was instrumental in keeping the organ
alive as a jazz and blues instrument, in the tradition of jazz
Hammond pioneer Jimmy Smith.
His albums, a number of them with covers graced by
photos of beautiful women, ranged from burning funk to
adaptations of pop songs to straight-ahead jazz.
Notable recordings from later in his career include "Front
Burner" (1988) on the Milestone label, and his music also
was featured in the soundtracks of such films as the
X-rated animated film "Fritz the Cat" (1972) and a
kung-fu action film "The Dynamite Brothers" (1973).
In a 1997 interview with Down Beat magazine, Earland
said he hoped a new crop of aspiring musicians would
take up the Hammond B-3 to succeed the older
generation of organ virtuosos. "We're not going to be
here forever," he said.
Earland, who was studying to become a minister during
the past few years, is survived by his wife, Sheila, and
three children. ~ ABC
Earland, 58, Soul-Jazz Organist and Saxophonist
Charles Earland, an organist and saxophonist who was a popular
exponent of the soul-jazz idiom in the 1970's, died on Saturday at
the Holiday Inn hotel in Kansas City, Mo., the morning after playing a
He was 58 and lived in Matteson, Ill.
The cause was heart failure, said his wife, Sheila.
Earland's stock in trade was a driving, percussive style on soul-jazz
versions of contemporary rhythm-and-blues and pop tunes; his "Black
Talk," released in 1969, became a hit.
After learning to play saxophone in high school, he played with the
Temple University band; shortly afterward, he joined the organist Jimmy
McGriff's band as a tenorist. In 1963 he switched to the organ when he
was having trouble keeping organists in his own band.
He found work with the saxophonist Lou Donaldson and then began to
make his own records for the Prestige label.
He made many records for the Prestige, Muse and High Note labels. At
the time of his death he was studying to become a minister at the Moody
Bible Institute in Chicago.
His albums were always popular on jazz radio; his latest, "Cookin' With
the Mighty Burner," was released on High Note in July and was in the
No. 1 position last month on the Gavin chart for national radio air play.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by three children: Charles Earland
III of Pasadena, Calif., Ahmad, of Lake Peekskill, N.Y., and Melissa
Earland, of Philadelphia.