Charles Earland was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 24, 1941 and learned to play the saxophone in high school. By age 17 he was playing tenor with Jimmy McGriff and in 1960 started his first group. He didn’t start playing the organ until after a stint with Pat Martino, then joined Lou Donaldson’s band until 1969.
Earland led a successful group in 1970 that included Grover Washington, Jr. and he eventually started playing the soprano saxophone and synthesizer but it was his simmering organ grooves the earned him the nickname “The Mighty Burner”.
In 1978 Earland hit the disco/club scene with “Let the Music Play” written by Randy Muller from Brass Construction. The record hit the U.S. charts for 5 weeks and reached number 46 in the U.K. Singles chart. From 1988 he traveled extensively performing worldwide with one of his many career highlights being to play the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1994.
He continued to perform throughout the U.S. and abroad until his death from heart failure in Kansas City, Missouri at the age of fifty-eight on December 11, 1999. Charles Earland, The Mighty Burner, was a composer, organist, and saxophonist in the soul jazz idiom.
Carla Bley was born Carla Borg on May 11, 1936 is best known for her work as a jazz composer, pianist, organist and band leader in the post bop generation and free jazz movement of the 60s.
Raised in Oakland, California she was encouraged by her father, piano teacher and choirmaster, to sing and learn the piano. Giving up church to immerse herself in roller-skating at fourteen, Carla moved to New York and became a cigarette girl at Birdland. It is here that she met and married Paul Bley, who encouraged her to start composing. Her compositions would later begin to appear on recordings by George Russell and Jimmy Guiffre, with compositions being performed by Gary Burton, Art Farmer and Paul Bley.
In 1964 she was involved in organizing the Jazz Composer Guild bringing together the most innovative musicians in New York and started the JCOA record label, which released albums by Clifford Thornton, Don Cherry and Roswell Rudd, Michael Mantler and herself. With Mantler the two started the New Music Distribution Services, now defunct, that specialized in small, independent labels issuing creative improvised music.
Carla Bley has collaborated with a number of other artists, including Kurt Weill, Jack Bruce, Charlie Haden, Phil Woods, Johnny Griffin, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Lew Soloff, Phil Woods and her current partner bassist Steve Swallow. She has continued to record frequently with her own big band and a number of smaller ensembles.
Richard Arnold “Groove” Holmes was born in Camden, New Jersey on May 2, 1931. A self-taught organist, he began his early career working along the East coast. It wasn’t until a recording session with Les McCann and Ben Webster in 1961 that widespread interest was piqued in his work.
Touring and recording throughout the 60s he achieved important recognition and acceptance amongst mainstream and post-bop jazz audiences. His landmark recording of “Misty” brought him critical acclaim and is considered by some a precursor of acid jazz.
He developed a solid relationship with Gene Ammons and their playing exemplified the soul-heavy organ-tenor playing that proliferated the decade. He played with big bands including one led by Gerald Wilson and recorded with Dakota Staton, Houston Person and Jimmy Witherspoon among others.
His sound was immediately recognizable in the upper register, but even more so because of his virtuosity in creating, undoubtedly, the most rapid, punctuating, and pulsating bass lines of all the jazz organists. He stands alongside the elite of jazz organists Jimmy Smith, Brother Jack McDuff and Jimmy McGriff for his contributions to the instrument and music.
Performing to the end of life, his last concerts in a wheelchair, organist Richard “Groove” Holmes, revered in soul-jazz circles died of a heart attack on June 29, 1991 in St. Louis, Missouri after a long struggle with prostate cancer.
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Amina Claudine Myers was born March 21, 1942 in Blackwell, Arkansas. The pianist, organist, vocalist, composer and musical arranger began singing and playing the piano and organ as a child in church choirs in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area where she grew up. She directed choirs at an early age and graduated in concert music and music education from Philander Smith College.
In the early sixties Amina moved to Chicago, teaching and attending classes at Roosevelt University. It was in Chicago that she began working with Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons, joined the AAMC, focused on vocal compositions and recorded her debut album with Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre in 1969. .
In 1976 Myers relocated to New York City, where she intensified her compositional work and expanded it into the realm of Off-Broadway productions. She also continued performing and recording as a pianist and organist with Lester Bowie and Muhal Richard Abrams into the early eighties. In 1985 she joined Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra and had notable collaborations on recordings with artists like Marian McPartland, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Archie Shepp, David Murray, Arthur Blytheand Ray Anderson to name a few.
Amina Claudine Myers, a virtuoso pianist and organist whose work is presented internationally and appears on scores of recordings, draws upon her backgrounds in classical music and the music of the black church of her native rural South to create a recombinant sensibility within improvisation-imbued extended compositions. Her work is insistently post-genre at a moment when re-inscriptive collage pretends to postmodern transgression.
Shirley Scott was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 14, 1934. She began her musical journey with piano and trumpet in high school but her admiration for Jimmy Smith moved her to the Hammond organ as her primary instrument, though she continued to play piano.
In the Fifties she came to prominence working with saxophonist Eddie Davis, but by the ‘60s Scott married Stanley Turrentine and the subsequent musical collaboration was fruitful with releases.
A very melodic player, Shirley graduated to an aggressive, highly rhythmic approach of organ player blending intricate bebop harmonies with blues and gospel with soul jazz. Her visibility waned in the seventies as labels interest in organ combos was replaced by fusion and pop jazz.
By the 1980s she would become a jazz educator and recording for Muse with the new found interest in organ late in the decade. Scott, a superb pianist, exclusively played piano during the Nineties in Philly jazz clubs and recorded trio projects for Candid.
By the turn of the new century with her health declining, she was diagnosed with heart damage due to adverse effects from the diet pill “fen-phen”. She was awarded $8 million in a lawsuit against the drug manufacturers. Shirley Scott died of heart failure on March 10, 2002.
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