Here is the third album of the phenomenal Les McCann trio--the second having been made with saxophonist Teddy Edwards--including the great Leroy Vinnegar on bass and Ron The Prophet Jefferson on drums, an amalgamation of soul that was made in heaven. This album is being released just as Les's first work, THE TRUTH, is on the verge of becoming a jazz classic. Its sales have been fabulous, having achieved the number one spot in hip areas all over the country.
The fortuitous naming of Les McCann's first album and its title song was by no means a mere literary happy accident. That Les plays the truth is uniquely more than a figure of speech. His work is the expression of a truly splendid human being. It combines the articulation of genius with the power of a young man capable of the deepest magnitudes of emotion. To illustrate this veritable sine qua non of Les McCann's music, its close relationship to the language of soul, I find myself constantly recalling a powerful moment in the development of my musical understanding. One morning, tuned in on a Brahms concert and still partially submerged in sleep, I experienced a symbolic rapport with the music that was almost a verbal paraphrase. My response in the dream was, "Tell them, Brahms! This is how men and women live!" And it is on this level that Les McCann speaks the truth. He experiences living more directly than any other person I've ever known. Life approaches him underlined, with its potentialities in italics; the fulfillment, the ecstacy, the pain and the warmth of deep human contact. The shapes of these elements constitute the canvases of his great originals. Les McCann's music is a sweet translation of life's jazz.
This album was taken during working hours at Les's regular gig at The Bit, the coffee house on the Sunset Strip. Dick Bock, president of Pacific Jazz, also included on the tape Les's superb humor and whimsey between numbers and has ingeniously decided to leave it in. This will demonstrate another very important aspect of Les McCann's entertainment capabilities. Aside from his swinging musicianship, he is a true humorist. He contacts you with his spectacular personality, an element which guarantees him many happy seasons in the sun. At the Hollywood Jazz Festival he introduced Ron Jefferson as having had his own group overseas called THE MAU MAU and the roof fell in.
You might also notice that during one of those moments when the group fades out of a number and then back in that there was dead silence, a fact which attests to the complete, rapt attention that Les MCann achieves. Such a phenomenom has not been seen since Gerry Mulligan made The Haig an internationally known club nearly a decade ago.
Another feature which adds warm drama to the configuration of a live performance is the play of communication constantly taking place between Les and Leroy and Ron. They're always gassing each other with their respective virtuosities. Quick glances and flashing smiles are frequently vocalized in a "Yeahhh, Baby," signalling the reception of a message from far out. The non-musicians in the audience are delighted by this repartee which informs them that something else has just happened.
Ron The Prophet Jefferson, who frequently faces soulfully upwards while working with the brushes, is said to be able to see with his great eyes closed. At the top of his profession, he manifests exquisite taste with the various percussion values he shells out for the group. When he "takes his time" for a solo, you know that somebody up there is taking care of business. One gets the feeling that his range of subtlely and nuance is infinite, that his expressiveness over the drums is comparable to the relationship of a fine poet to his language.
Leroy Vinnegar, an acknowledged magician, double-stops and plucks with both hands simultaneously, frequently cannonading his followers with six or seven notes at a time. Actually they're sixty-fourths but this is so fast compared to a quarter that Beethoven himself would have run up on the stage and hired him. When you observe big Leroy fingering his axe as tho it were a violin and hear those bursts of sound like fireworks, you know you're in a great presence. Here is stature, and history takes pride in this.
About to embark on his first cross-country tour, and feeling that the success of his trio seems assured, Les has asked me to extend his appreciation to: Dick Bock, president of Pacific Jazz, for his help in producing the albums, and for his personal interest in Les's career; to Olga James, Les's manager, who has guided him with a keen awareness; to the Samson of the bass, Leroy Vinnegar, whose solid-rock foundation has been an endless source of inspiration as has Ron Jefferson's unfailing exuverance; to the fellows who played with him in the past--his first drummer Alonso Garibaldi, bassmen Jack Bruce and Herbie Lewis and drummer Dave Bailey; to his "Little Girl From Casper," Beverly, for her love and understanding; to Geno Thaler, owner of The Bit, for giving him his first extended engagement; to Vicki Arnold, his lyricist, for her tremendous talent and artistic maturity; to the great Gene McDaniels; to Mr. Charles Quillings; also to James "Fuzz" Tanner, trumpet player and teacher, who gave him much sound musical advice, and whose 3/4 time conception opened up new possibilities for the group which led to Les's recording "A Little 3/4 For God And Co."
-- Vahan K. Gregory
Mr. Gregory is a poet and writer (Short Story, Martha Foley "Best American Short Story--1953"), and owner of The Capriccio Coffee House in Hollywood.