Just as a knight serves his king, Joe Knight provided the hip Chicago King label with a series of dynamite rhythm tracks, holding down the piano stool in a rhythm section that also featured Carl Wilson on bass and drummer Bobby Donaldson. While it is true that a king would employ more than one knight, the concept that a pianist identified as Earl Knight -- playing on similar Chicago-based sessions as well as later hard bop sides -- is a different person is faulty. This is also Joe Knight, sometimes credited with the more formal Joseph.
The Brooklyn-born keyboardist was the type of player whose function is his style: he helped lay down no-nonsense accompaniment that suited both heavy R&B talent such as singer Wynonie Harris and old-school swing instrumentalists. One player in the latter category was trumpeter Hot Lips Page, credited by some on the Chicago jazz scene with assembling the particularly nifty rhythm grouping of Knight, Wilson, and Donaldson. Page liked fairly simple chordal accompaniment and Knight provided same; indeed, many florid modern pianists could not play as sparingly as Knight unless they had several of their digits amputated.
The pianist went to work with eclectic bandleader Earl Bostic in 1951 following a four-year stint with Page that had begun in 1947, tucking behind a horn section that included the young John Coltrane. Knight shows up in the esteemed Blue Note catalog on some fine recordings organized by Bennie Green, a highly original trombonist.Knight also gigged in a similar style of playing with guitarist Kenny Burrell around New York City in the '50s and '60s. Credits under Earl Knight include an excellent session from 1954 captained by tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson.