I think Les McCann is an exciting, fresh and honest jazz pianist. I do not think (and I'm sure Les doesn't either) that he is ready to enter the piano Valhalla of Waller, Tatum, Powell and Peterson, but I certainly feel that he deserves every opportunity to aspire to this Valhalla. Part of this opportunity has, in effect, been denied McCann by a segment of the critic fraternity in openly accusing him of plagiarism and cynical contrivance.
This recording is McCann's answer to these charges. The following notes explore some aspects of the critic fraternity and the attitude of the jazz musician toward this rather ominous figure who stands between him and his audience.
If ever there was an ironic situation, it is that of a jazz critic reprimanding a jazz musician for his use or misuse of the blues and/or funk, soul, or whatever abstraction prevails at the moment. I remember a situation a number of years ago of hearing a well-established critic lecture a young man on the twelve-bar blues which was supposedly being played on the bandstand at the moment. The lecture was very interesting except that the tune being played happened to be "Perdido." The fact that the blues begins on some form of the I chord and "Perdido" begins on a II chord may be of small interest to a jazz critic, but of major importance to a jazz musician. How important is hearing in criticism? Many musicians feel we ought to find out. Can a tone-deaf person be a good critic? Doubtful. Is perfect pitch an automatic guarantee of good criticism? Equally doubtful. Let us take a look at this man called critic.
[Long discourse on the nature of jazz critics removed (no relevance to Les McCann or this album) . . . ]
-- John Mehegan
New York City
Jan. 6, 1961