Les McCann “Invitation to Openness”
Les McCann “Invitation to Openness” www.OmnivoreRecordings.com
Les McCann’s “Invitation to Openness” made its first appearance on vinyl in 1972 on the powerhouse Atlantic Records label, it also reached number eight on Billboards Jazz chart. The original session was produced by the late great Joel Dorn, and Dorn reissued it on CD via his Label M moniker in 2000 with Dorn’s brand-new and personally updated notes, that added current day and insightful value. The Label M packaging was also unique, hi-quality and virtually indestructible. Water Records released it again in 2004, and Rhino/Atlantic offered it as digital download in 2005. Roll forward to Omnivore’s 2015 edition; for the first time adds a bonus-track from a live ’75 European performance of “Compared to What.” Even with this additional bonus-tune there are only four tracks on the entire recording, but the three original songs are chunky, funky and were all authored by McCann.
For example the twenty-six minute “The Lovers” took up an entire side on vinyl, it starts off seductively than twists and turns with a montage of grooves that are fascinating. Solos by Yusef Lateef’s sax, oboe and flute add intrigue, and guitarist David Spinozza lifts the lengthy piece towards the heavens. The rhythms also mesmerize with McCann’s electric piano and synthesizer, two bassists (Bill Salter and Jimmy Rowser,) a myriad of drummers and percussionists (Bernard Purdie, Al Mouzon, Donald Dean, Buck Clarke, and Ralph McDonald,) plus guitarist Cornell Dupree and electronic pianist Jodie Christien. But it’s not clear if everyone jams together on all three songs – as there are no track by track musician credits. Trusting my own ears I’m comfortable “The Lovers” guitar solos are not Dupree’s and more likely Spinozza’s. The magic continues on the breezy “Beaux J. Poo Boo” at just over thirteen minutes captivates with a funk-filled yet hypnotic jam. Checkout the Spanish changes from McCann’s keyboards early on, the creative basslines, all of the percussion, Spinozza (or is it Dupree’s guitar work,) and of course Lateef who adds so much depth. Lastly (from the original album) “Poo Pye McGoochie (And His Friends)” is the briefest at twelve and a half minutes. It showcases McCann’s forward synthesizer and electronic keys as the band bounces until the standup bass solo sets-up an exploratory romp from the ensemble. Including Lateef’s full-textured tenor sax, more synthesizer drifting’s to space, than Spinozza bursts loose with dynamic guitar chirps. McCann tinkers the keys as the band shifts moods from featured soloing to dramatic groove playing and so on.
The live bonus track: Omnivore bloviates that Buddy Guy is the featured guitarist on Eugene McDaniels’ “Compared to What.” But the other guitarist: Philip Catherine better fits the bill for the guitar work. Firstly there’s no guitar solo but there are incredibly intense guitar rhythmic comps that are front and center in the mix. But these fascinating guitar phrases portray no resemblance to anything I’ve ever heard Buddy play. Research: This live “Compared to What” was previously released by the group Passport on an album titled “Doldinger Jubilee ’75.” Being the curious sort I pulled that recording from my collection; I’ll quote Arthur Levy’s liners: “Les McCann’s trident introduction to the by-now classic “Compared to What” is catapulted by the tenor work of Klaus Doldinger and Johnny Griffin, <Philip Catherine’s biting guitar,> the Passport rhythm section (drummer Curt Cress, bassist Wolfgang Schmid, and Kristian Schultze on keyboards) collectively propel this entire performance.” Hmmm; there’s no mention of Buddy Guy’s guitar playing? In reality Buddy is unmistakably featured elsewhere on “Doldinger Jubilee ’75.” No matter kudos to Omnivore for adding this electrifying and hair-raising rendition of “Compared to What. It’s certainly a very positive plus-one bonus to “Invitation to Openness.”
Note: “Invitation to Openness” is also the title of a jazz and soul photography book that contains photos of Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, Tina Turner, Louie Armstrong, Miles, Trane, Cannonball, Basie, Eddie Harris, Duke Ellington and more. These photos were taken from 1960-1980 by Les McCann, and all unpublished. The book also includes comments from McCann on his photo subjects.
For 16 years Bob Putignano has been pivotal at WFDU with his Sounds of Blue radio show (Wed. & Fri. 9am-1pm) www.SoundsofBlue.com – 2015’s most pledged to ($21,000+) radio program at http://wfdu.fm Previously a contributing editor at Blues Revue, Blueswax, and Goldmine magazines, currently the Music Editor for the Yonkers Tribune www.YonkersTribune.com – www.MakingAScene.org & www.wfdu.fm/Whats-Happening/Bob’s Music Reviews/bobs music reviews/ Bob was the 2003 recipient of the “Keeping the Blues Alive” award (given by the Blues Foundation in Memphis) for his achievements in radio broadcasting. Putignano can be contacted at: [email protected]
Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com Wed. & Fri. 9am-1pm:
2015’s most pledged to radio program at WFDU @ $21,000+ http://WFDU.fm Now celebrating 15 + years on the air in the NYC area Music Editor: www.yonkerstribune.com, www.makingascene.org & wfdu.fm/Whats-Happening/Bob’s Music Reviews/bobs music reviews/