Charles Kynard - Biography
By Eric Brightwell
Charles Kynard was an American soul jazz organist and bass player from Missouri who often worked with and recorded songs by arranger Richard Fritz. Though never widely recognized during his lifetime, his recordings have been re-discovered by subsequent generations and a particular favorite for the hip-hop and the acid jazz crowds.
Charles Kynard was born February 20th, 1933 in St. Louis, Missouri. He ended up in Kansas City playing piano whilst studying for a degree in music education at the University of Kansas. When the proprietor of a club Kynard was scheduled to play at suggested he try the organ, Kynard obliged and was hooked… and hired. Soon he was a draw at clubs like The Street and The Blue Room, where he paired with Arch Martin and mentored a young Bill Freeman. After a stint in the army ended in 1957, Kynard pursued a parallel career teaching retarded children. At the same time he formed a band that played around KC, further establishing himself as a local talent. Local trumpeter Carmell Jones to Pacific Jazz founder Richard Bock.
Kynard’s first recording was accompanying on My Mothers’ Eyes (1963-Pacific Jazz), credited to Sonny Stitt with the jazz organ of Charles Kynard. One of the tracks, “Red Top,” was a composition by Kynard’s uncle. Kynard also showed up on a few tracks of Less McCann’s The Gospel Truth (1963-Pacific Jazz). Kynard’s own debut was the gospel-tinged, Where It’s At (1963-Pacific Jazz), which appeared the same year and featured accompaniment from saxophonist Clifford Scott, drummers Milt Turner and Leroy Henderson, Ray Crawford and Howard Roberts on guitar, and Ronnell Bright on piano. After its release, Kynard moved to Los Angeles where, as a bandleader, he found steady employment at the Tiki Island bar. He also continued his commitment to special education and playing in church. The following year, Charles Kynard & Buddy Collette released the Latin jazz Warm Winds on World Pacific.
Several years passed before Kynard returned with a new album on a new label, Prestige Records. He was brought to the label by producer Bob Porter, who’d previously written the liner notes for My Mother’s Eyes. The album was the soul jazz Professor Soul (1968-Prestige), on which he was accompanied by guitarist Cal Green and drummer Johnny Kirkwood. The following year’s The Soul Brotherhood (1969-Prestige) was another easy swinging, blues-based set on which he teamed him with fellow St. Louisan Grant Green on guitar, bassist Jimmy Lewis, drummer Mickey Roker, saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman and trumpeter Blue Mitchell.
Reelin' with the Feelin' (1969-Prestige) featured a line-up of guitarist Joe Pass, saxophonist Wilton Felder, bassist Carol Kaye and drummer Paul Humphreys. It signaled Kynard’s increasingly dirty, funky groove-based direction that he would pursue in the 1970s. April’s Afro-Disiac (1970-Prestige) once again featured Green and Lewis as well as saxophonist Houston Person and drummer Bernard Purdie. December’s Wa-Tu-Wa-Zui (Beautiful People) (1970-Prestige) followed later in the year, once again featuring Lewis and Purdie as well as Rusty Bryant on tenor sax, Melvin Sparks on guitar, Virgil Jones on trumpet, and drummer Idris Muhammad.
Charles Kynard (Mainstream-1971) saw Kynard changing labels once again. Joined by bassist Carol Kaye, of Axelrod fame, King Errison on congas, saxophonist Ernie Watts, guitarist Billy Fender and drummer James Gadson; the album is his most groove based to that point. That year, Kynard also played on Leonard Feather All Stars’ Night Blooming Jazzmen (1971-Maintstream). His own Woga (1972-Mainstream) followed with Chuck Rainey and Humphrey providing support on a smooth, funky set . After Manu Dibango’s surprise hit, “Soul Makossa,” Bob Shad put together a studio band that included Kynard and twelve other instruments laying down funky takes of that song and others on Soul Makossa (1973-Maintstream). Your Mama Don't Dance (1973-Mainstream) was, as with Woga, a set of songs that wouldn’t feel out of place in as the score for a film of the era. On it he was again joined by Humphrey and Rainey as well as guitarist Arthur Adams, trombonists George Bohanon and David Roberts and trumpet and flugelhorn players James Kartchner and Jerry Rusch. It proved to be his last release. Afterward, Kynard ceased recording completely, instead limiting himself to club and church and focusing on his day job and his family. He died July 8th, 1979.