Had it not been for my going to the musicians' Union while in New York, my meeting with Stanley Turrentine would have been delayed. "Say, Stanley, I've been looking forward to meeting you. Why don't we do an album together?" Stanley responded with, "Yeah, Les, I wanted to talk to you about the same thing."
These were the first words that we exchanged and it was all that was necessary since we already knew and understood each other musically. So, we went ahead and did it. . . and here it is. In spite of conflicting time schedules which didn't permit us much rehearsal time, I knew that we would be able to get something going. It wasn't until the hour before recording that we all managed to be present at the same time.
I'd like to say something about Stanley. . . he loves his music too, and it comes out alive and strong. I'm glad that Blue Mitchell was in town and could join our choir. A disciple of Horace Silver, he knows about "soul and those sort o' things." And what a surprise to find that the tenor player that I'd been enjoying for three nights in a row at Birdland turned out to be the same tenor player that had been recommended to me and who I'd been trying to contact for several days--Frank Haines! I'm happy that he could make the session.
The regular members of the Ltd. are Ron Jefferson and Herbie Lewis. We have had so many great experiences together--some of the best moments of my life. This was Herbie's last recording with us since he had decided to live in New York. Ron and I returned to Los Angeles where Leroy Vinnegar, who was our original bassist, rejoined the group.
Bird, Miles, Dizzy, or Joe Splink are examples of a few musicians who have imagination. To me, it's a drag to hear so many other musicians living off the imaginations of the creative few when all they have to do is realize that each one of them could have something going on all his own (and this doesn't mean a gimmick). There is no end to the possibilities (and fun) in music. So, why don't we get on in there and get it?
-- Les McCann
When I left Japan in mid-1961 Les McCann was becoming recognized as a youthful leader of West Coast jazz. His records were being heard more and more often in coffee shops, those favorite haunts of the Japanese jazz fan.
My first meeting with Mr. McCann was at the Crescendo Club in Los Angeles. He impressed me as being an energetic and aspiring musician. His performance was exciting and more versatile than his billing would suggest. When he came to New York that Winter for a two-month booking at the Village Gate, he invited me to attend an on-the-spot recording session.
While the seating capacity of the Gate is small (450) compared to many Japanese clubs, the roof that night held down one of the noisiest audiences I had ever heard. (In Japan "live" jazz performances often call for a concert hall where respectful fans listen quietly till the first morning trains pull out of Tokyo station.) I complained to Mr. McCann about the noise. He told me not to be bothered by it because the forte was "up to par." McCann took his place at the piano, and gradually the noise died away.
He worked at the keyboard until sweat poured down his cheeks onto his well-trimmed sweep of beard. You sensed that behind that wide forehead he was maneuvering to give bass player Herbie Lewis and drummer Ron Jefferson as much freedom as possible.
The session rolled on, and impressions in passing were:
"Chip Monck" -- An attempt is made to escape from an imprisonment. The neck gets out and the fresh air feels reviving.
"Fayth, You're..." -- The beautiful tune floats like clouds changing their formations.
"A Little 3/4 For God & Co." -- McCann's left hand solo brings a suspense-full feeling.
"Maxies's Changes" -- A mixed feeling of Oriental myticism and sadness of Western McCannism.
To sum it up, McCann is an able artist with a wide range of moods. And while the sound he produces relaxes the mind, it has the pleasantest of qualities: excitement.
-- Atsuhico Kawabata
Mr. Kawabata is currently working in New York for the Japanese edition of Down Beat Magazine published in Tokyo.