Charles Earland | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Charles Earland 

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Nobody carries the organ-combo torch like Charles Earland, and he runs the gamut with it--from ass-kicking hard-bop lines to sloppily sentimental ballads to shuffle beats that trade on the urgent undercurrent of black pop music from the 70s and 80s. The organ combo is a stripped-down format that traditionally comprises drums, guitar and/or saxophone, and no bass--the organist handles the low-note lines on the instrument's foot pedals--and Earland knows as well as anyone that this instrumentation always invites a high degree of crossover from outside the jazz sphere. Earland brings the requisite supply of unadulterated funk to the formula along with a penchant for melody lines that, more than most organists', "sing" like a horn's (the result of his first musical training, as a tenor saxist). At times the first of those virtues overwhelms the second, which can lead to an overemphasis on familiar riffs and a reliance on cliche; but such earsores are relatively rare on Earland's new Muse CD, Unforgettable, his first recording since a heart attack in 1991. His band includes several fairly new players, which should further insure creative use of the ferocious energy Earland always brings to the party. Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bruce Powell.

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