Les McCann is an interesting figure in jazz. After winning a talent contest on the Ed Sullivan Show in '56, McCann turned down an opportunity to join Cannonball Adderley's group, deciding instead to form his own jazz trio in Los Angeles. Playing a popular blend of hard bop and soul jazz, he signed with Pacific Jazz in '60, produced several enjoyable albums, and continued to develop and define the sound he wanted. That sound, a restless brew of jazz, funk, and soul, came to fruition on albums like 1968's Much Les
and 1969's Swiss Movement
, which produced the platinum-selling single "Compared to What."
As heard on these works, McCann had distinction in sound and style on piano and vocals, communicating with near pop-like fun and flair. McCann was poised to be great, yet something funny happened on the way to jazz stardom. Fusion, with its wild and wooly blend of traditional jazz and electronics, fractured the jazz fan base, leaving musicians like McCann a fractional audience. His '70s albums bathed too often in the waters of electronic wizardry, perhaps withering his acoustic jazz talents, or perhaps the audience for his experiments never caught up to his innovations.
The Water label, in its constant, worthwhile rummaging of the past, has reissued McCann's '71 album Invitation to Openness. Capturing the full splendor of fusion, the album is dominated by its opening track, the 26 minute-long "The Lovers." This lengthy, though thoroughly enjoyable track finds McCann employing an electrified strut of heavy beats, funky bass lines, and juiced-up guitars. The whole of this song, as well the remaining tunes, "Beaux J. Poo Boo," and "Poo Pye McGooche," is really a jamming forum for this exceptional set of musicians.
Personnel: Les McCann- piano, electric piano, Moog synth; Corky Hale- harp; Yusef
Lateef- flute, oboe, sax, percussion; David Spinozza, Cornell Dupree- guitars; Jimmy
Rowser, Bill Salter- bass; Buck Clarke, William Clarke, Donald Dean, Alphonze Mouzon,
Bernard Purdie- percussion, drums