So many of the jazz great are now gone, a fact that no one would dispute but that really hits home after listening to a masterpiece such as this reissue of Charles Mingus' Mingus Moves. Not only have we lost the impetuous bassist and composer, but also drummer Dannie Richmond, tenor titan George Adams and the extraordinary pianist Don Pullen. The latter three men, in particular, were taken way before their times and one longs for the incendiary magic that the Pullen-Adams group (the seeds of which are planted here) conjured for a brief spell in the '80s.
Alkan was counted in Busoni's pantheon of five romantics alongside Chopin, Schumann, Liszt and Brahms. Brahms and Schumann are the references in the euphoric Grand Duo Concertant - nothing short of a 20 or so minute Sonata in three turbulent movements. This is a work of diving romance and if Alkan had stopped in the style of the first movement then we would have been able to 'place' Alkan. Instead we get a second movement that clamours in bass heavy capering for all the world like a picture of a Black Sabbath. As if to make ‘amends’ the finale is back to the helter-skelter tumble of vivacity we find in the first movement. This euphoria carries over into the Cello Sonata which is in four classically well-tailored movements. Alkan's originality or eccentricity (take your pick) returns for the Adagio which is part sentimental and part affecting. This perhaps offers a parallel with Joseph Holbrooke's chamber works in which sublime ideas and treatment suddenly find themselves up against kitsch music hall ditties. A wild saltarello with grand manner Hungarian gestures from the piano round out the picture.
This two-fer CD pairs 1972's Live at the Lighthouse with the less impressive, though still worthy, 1974 album Kharma, which was recorded at that year's Montreux Jazz Festival. As the head of a sextet on Live at the Lighthouse, Earland spearheaded some first-class soul-jazz, which integrated some funk and rock of the early '70s without sounding like a watered-down cocktail of all those styles (as many other soul-jazz-pop albums of the time did). The horn section of James Vass on sax and Elmer Coles on trumpet leaned more toward soul than jazz, as heard on the opening instrumental cover of Sly & the Family Stone's "Smilin'." The Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" wasn't the greatest tune to attempt, though Earland gamely put it into a boppish swing arrangement.