Recorded in 1970 at the Key Club, Living Black! is notable for many reasons, not the least of which is that it showcased Earland in an inspired live setting. From choosing his sidemen to the material to reading the audience to pure instrumental execution, there isn't a weak moment on this date, nor a sedentary one. Earland makes the band roll on all burners from the git and never lets up. Consisting of four extended tunes, there's the burning rhythm and stomp of "Key Club Cookout," which blazes with wisdom and funky fire. Earland's own soloing is revelatory, but it is the way he drags absolutely unexpected performances from his sidemen that makes him so special as a bandleader. Grover Washington never played like this again-- at least on a record--deep in the soul groove on his tenor, he turned it inside out, looking for new embouchures in which to get the sounds out of the horn.
He dug deep inside his trick bag and left no one wanting. Likewise, guitarist Maynard Parker, who came from the Chicago blues school, gets to exercise that side of his West Side soul personality -- check out his break on "Westbound No. 9." "Killer Joe," the longest track on the record is swaggering blues strut. It features a slow, strolling horn line from Washington and trumpeter Gary Chandler that opens out onto a gorgeous pastoral frame before popping out with the blues feel once again. Parker's guitar playing fills all the places Earland chooses not to, so the band's density is total. There is a moving short version of "Milestones" that closes the set, but it wasn't even necessary. Everybody who was there had their minds blown long before.
|Key Club Cookout / Charles Earland||Charles Earland||9:31|
|Westbound No. 9 / Daphne Dumas / Ronald Dunbar / Edyth Wayne||Charles Earland||8:19|
|Killer Joe / Benny Golson||Charles Earland||14:28|
|Milestones / Miles Davis||Charles Earland||4:34|
|More Today Than Yesterday / Pat Upton||Charles Earland||8:20|
|Message from a Black Man / Barrett Strong / Norman Whitfield||Charles Earland||9:59|