Charles Earland: Infant Eyes (1978) Muse/ Van Gelder


Selection: We Are Not Alone



Bill Hardman (trumpet) Frank Wess and/or Mack Goldsbury (tenor saxophone, Wess: and flute, ) Jimmy Ponder or Melvin Sparks (guitar) Grady Tate (drums) Lawrence Killian (percussion) recorded by Rudy Van Gelder, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1978.


End of the ’70s, a marriage of organ soul-jazz and bop, recorded and mastered by Rudy Van Gelder, and produced by Ozzie Cadena, more of whom anon. With so much attention here lavished on artists and engineers, the producer rarely gets a look in. Time to put this right. There are a lot of soul-jazz  organ jazz fans I know, and they have been suffering neglect, so I will put that right too.

The presence of Bill Hardman, veteran sparring partner of Jackie Mclean and former Jazz Messenger, plus Basie stalwart Frank Wess on tenor, ensures this is no ordinary organ-trio soul-jazz outing. The solid brass polish lends considerable weight to the album’s bop credentials, while ever dependable Grady Tate pushes everything along. The guitar presence contributes rhythmic comping as well as tasteful solos, including octave-paired fretwork in the manner of George Benson, without the smooth-jazz overtones. With unison headline statements and blistering solos, Earland gives plenty of space to his players, laying down the groove in good company.

I enjoyed reprising this record, occasioned by my search for Van Gelder’s “missing years”.

Charles Earland

Hammond B3 hero Charles  Earland came into his own at the end of the ’60s. After appearing on a number of Lou Donaldson titles for Blue Note, he signed with Prestige, who were looking to expand their catalogue in the soul-jazz genre, with street-appeal titles like Black Talk, Black Drops, and Living Black! 


Nicknamed The Mighty Burner, Earland released eight titles  for Prestige before moving to Mercury, Muse and later, Milestone and CBS.

He picked up on popular themes in their day, mystic and outa-space associations, with titles like Karma, Intensity, Revelation, Leaving This Planet, and Perceptions, the only soul-jazz album I owned in the late ’70s, for its hit track Let The Music Play . There is a closet soul jazz fan here, well-hidden, grooving away in a darkened  basement disco practicing their dance moves.


 Later Earland titles settled on associations with his  “Burner” nickname – Third Degree Burn, Front Burner, and towards the end, The Almighty Burner. Earland’s discography lists nearly forty releases before the  final curtain fell in 1999, aged 58. It is tempting to think that, in the end, The Mighty Burner would have chosen cremation, and gone out in style, smokin’ to the very end. (Ed: Isn’t that in rather poor taste? LJC: Possibly, sorry.)

Earland is more soulful to  my mind than Jimmy Smith, whose pyrotechnics tend to leave me weary, and more hard-driving than the musically more-exploratory Larry Young. There, that should have offended enough people.  Earland drives and cooks. With what those bass pedals save on the employment of a bass player for the session, his budget can stretch to exciting sidemen like Bill Hardman, whose fast-tongued phrases perfectly complement the swinging Hammond.

One of his producers, Bob Porter, describes Earland’s approach to the Hammond  thus:

“No one can “kick the 3” quite like Earland. His organ style reveals perhaps the best walking-bass line among organists and a unique second type of bass line that creates a rolling, long-meter feeling on rock tunes. In addition, he has a true feeling for melodies. His melodic phrasing is second to none among organists…”

Among Earland’s producers was Ozzie Cadena, who released one of Earland’s first titles for his Choice label, the person who  links Earland to Van Gelder to Prestige, Savoy and Muse.

Ozzie Cadena

After completing military service in the Pacific, one of Ozzie Cadena’s early jobs  was in a radio and record shop in  Newark owned by Herman Lubinsky, who was also the owner of Savoy Records. Ozzie segued to become a producer and talent scout for Savoy between 1954 and 1959, recordings including  Cannonball Adderley, Milt Jackson, Yusef Lateef, and Charles Mingus. Veteran drummer Kenny Clarke helped recruit musicians for Cadena, who  arranged some one-time recordings at Van Gelder’s Hackensack home studio.

In 1962, Cadena took over from Esmond Edwards as head of A&R at Prestige, helping direct Prestige toward organ groups and soul-jazz, artists like Shirley Scott, Jack McDuff and Red Holloway, a genre which underpinned Prestige’s continued commercial viability.He subsequently booked  many Van Gelder sessions at Englewood Cliffs

Connections, connections. In the early ’60s, Cadena started his own record label, Choice, which released albums by Charles Earland among others. When in the late ’70s and ’80’s Muse and Savoy Jazz began releasing jazz titles and reissues, it was natural that Cadena would return to Van Gelder and Englewood Cliffs for the Muse/ Earland date, held at the Spiritual Home of the Soul Jazz Organ, inhabited by the spirit of Jimmy Smith, Big John Patton, Freddie Roach and Larry Young.

Cadena later settled in California, promoting jazz in Hollywood and LA , including at the  famous Lighthouse Cafe, the historic ’50s-era venue in Hermosa Beach. His final curtain fell in 2008, at the age of 83. An important facilitator and promoter of the course of jazz, tendency soul.

In my usual dilettante fashion, I knew nothing of Ozzie Cadena until I noticed his credit as producer of the Muse/ Van Gelder, and curiosity nagged away to unravel the story as to why RVG appears in the run-out of a 1979 Charles Earland soul-jazz recording, Mastered by Van Gelder.

Vinyl: Muse MR 5181

The liner notes are worth a read, at 1800px, unless you are reading on your phone perhaps, book into Specsavers.



Collectors Corner

Following the Van Gelder trail has, once again, taken me into unexpected territory. I never expected to connect Rudy with organ soul-jazz in the late ’70s, though it is now entirely clear how a van Gelder stamp appears on such a title. Too many of our jazz heroes are celebrated when their obituary hits the cognoscenti inner pages of the New York Times and London’s Guardian. With Van Gelder now in his ’90s I’m getting my appreciation in first.

Lets give the soul jazz organ fans an extra treat –  with a bonus track from this bopping  Earland LP, the answer to Jimmy Smith’s It’s Necessary? with the hardest-swinging track Is It Necessary? It’s kind of similar title but better grammar, possibly an in-joke among Hammond B3 players.

Selection: Is it Necessary?


If you reference the liner notes regarding this track, jazz and Rolling Stone writer Michael Rozek notes this track “spotlighting burning solos by Hardman, Sparks and Charlie”, of which there are none in the spotlight, aside from Charles Earland cooking away. Perhaps it is like the a case of the sports journalist who filed his copy before seeing the match, generally a reckless move. Alternate take?

Connoisseurs of Jazz musicians longevity may have noted that Earland’s tenor and flute player here, Frank Wess, died only a little over a years ago, at the age of 91.

20 thoughts on “Charles Earland: Infant Eyes (1978) Muse/ Van Gelder

  1. This site isn’t just an amusing read it has also helped me become a little more discerning in what I buy.
    Instead of just focussing on the music, I now also try and buy well manufactured vinyl. Funny because whilst I have my fair share of duff scorpios and the like (but very few of the evil silver discs), the poor sound reproduction never particularly bothered me before.
    Fortunately I don’t have the desire to compete for ears and DGs and the like, so these later RVGs are a real bonus. This LP was a bargain. You also encouraged me to dig out Ricky Ford’s “Future’s Gold” which I bought when it came out but hadn’t fully appreciated it’s provenance.
    Couldn’t resist the temptation to own at least one DG / RVG / ear thing and so I have a rather battered copy of BLP 4016 Art Blakey’s At The Jazz Corner of the World vol2 arriving from Sweden shortly. Hopefully it won’t lead to the development of any kind of habit.
    Still without a copy of either Kind of Blue or Saxophone Colossus. I forget which is the third LP that every jazz fan is supposed to own, Time Out maybe? I’m not trying to be unconventional but I only have that on a silver disc.

    • Interesting what would occupy the Number 3 spot in the must-have canon. Once you get past Kind of Blue, and just possibly Rollins Colossus, people will have their own personal preferences. For me probably Charles Mingus’s – Ah Um, and/or Thelonious Monk’s – Brilliant Corners, then Coltrane’s Blue Train. This could be a long list…of three.

      Jazz Corner of the World is a great set on a great label. The Blue Note sound is addictive, there is no turning back now.

  2. Holy mackerel, that track “Is It Necessary?” kicks some serious behind! I have some Charles Earland, but this is a new one to me. Excellent.

  3. I’ve got this one – strong record. His Muse stuff is good and he is a sideman on some others – I think Houston Person and maybe some other cats. Smokin’ is probably the strongest but this one and Mama Roots both have their moments. Glad to see this here. Too many cats ignore anything recorded past 1967. Lots of gems to be found on Muse into the early 90s.

  4. I know it’s my loss (why do people, me included, always say that when what they really mean is, “Of course it isn’t my loss: my view is right and all dissenting opinion on this is futile”) but I can’t take organ jazz seriously. The sound is so time-locked, and it always sounds like the soundtrack to a bad film. Oddly, I almost feel the same way about guitar — it has to be very good and very carefully done if it is to avoid lapsing into bad taste. And even now I still prefer jazz guitar that doesn’t sound all that much like guitar.

    I know some people feel the same way about the vibraphone, but I don’t — for some reason vibes seem a perfectly proper jazz sound.

    Maybe the problem with the organ is that it always sounds like organ, it almost invariably swings, it always sounds like party music.

    There’s an interesting thesis to be written on jazz prejudices…. 🙂

    • Alun, could you give us an example of the kind of jazz guitar you are ready to accept, the kind that “doesn’t sound all that much like guitar”?
      Don’t get me wrong: There are quite a few jazz guitarists I really like, but I think they all sound… well, like jazz guitarists.

      • Eduard, I love John McLaughlin on EXTRAPOLATION — one of the great British jazz albums. McLaughlin set a benchmark on this record that he himself never met again (apart from his playing with Miles, of course) as his playing descended further and further into histrionics and power-playing.

        And I especially like Ben Monder with Bill McHenry. Minder’s guitar playing to my mind always avoids cliche and the usual — it can be quite thrilling stuff.

        • Extrapolation – yes indeed, Alun. I bought it the year it came out. John Surman shines on this one.
          Still, I love lots of other guitarists – Jimmy Raney, Johnny Smith, Tal Farlow, even Howard Roberts as long he was playing jazz. And Kenny Burrell. And Wes.

          • Eduard, I bought Extrapolation a few years after it came out — when it was reissued in a cheap Polydor budget pressing, I recall. At that time, strangely enough, I think I felt that jazz had to have a guitar in it. Now I’m sometimes surprised at how little jazz guitar I listen to.

            But if I’m in the mood for jazz guitar, then I still find that after all these years few give as much sheer pleasure as Django. I think Django and Bird were amongst the first jazz records I ever bought (they were cheap and I could afford them — although, as I have since realised, most of the pressings were cheap for a reason!).

    • The natural reaction is to recommend Larry Young’s stunning Blue Note LP “Unity.” But there’s so much more – anything Big John Patton did – a good deal of Jimmy Smith’s catalog. I would say listen to Grant Green’s “Street of Dreams” LP on Blue Note, 1964. Very minimalist with a stunning quartet of Green-Bobby Hutcherson-Larry Young-Elvin Jones. The opening cut, “I Wish You Love,” is one of the best Blue Note songs ever, in my humble opinion.

      As for guitar – have you listened to Jim Hall or Jimmy Raney? Or Kenny Burrell’s “Midnight Blue” LP?

      I have a prejudice against flute – I can’t stand it on most songs. But, there’s always exceptions…

      Not judging – but maybe you haven’t heard the right stuff?

      • Brilliant contribution, Blink, I love anything that opens new directions! We all have our likes and dislikes, for the most part, rightly so, but there is often another angle to explore, just requires a nudge, thank you.

        • Glad to be in on the conversation. Fantastic site you keep here good sir. Keep up the excellent work – been reading for a year now, finally figured out how to comment!

      • Bink, You’re right as regards Jim Hall (with Jimmy Giuffre) and Burrell’s Midnight Blue. Even Grant Green’s Solid. I love all those. But a little jazz guitar goes a along way. As for flute, I share your scepticism — but I put it aside for Dolphy and Rivers. Now, they are flute players!

  5. There’s an interesting segment of a wonderful interview with Rudy Van Gelder here:
    We learn that the Hammond model that was mainly used for recordings, both at Hackensack and later at Englewood Cliffs was a C-3, christened ‘the Old Girl’ by Jimmy Smith. It’s great to hear that is still there. The article also says that it was initially purchased for Gospel recordings. I think I read somewhere else that RVG perfected his recording of the Hammond sound by connecting it directly to the mixer rather than sticking a mike in front of Leslie speaker(s) but I may be mistaken.

  6. I’m sure you know this and it isn’t really jazz related, but Van Gelder also engineered and mastered some Gospel sessions. I had to mention it, as today on my lunch break I happened to find a copy of Marian Williams’ ‘Somebody Greater Than You Or I’ on Gospel, which is an offshoot of Savoy. I couldn’t resist buying it for $5 as it is quite clean and has RVG stamped in the deadwax.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s