There is a native American animal called the "fan" who among his many pleasures likes to dream up ideal situations and combinations. Boxing fans love to solve the unresolved question of who would win if Louis fought Dempsey. Baseball fans are forever creating all-star teams based on statistics. And needless to say jazz fans and jazz magazines provide a plethora of all-star bands, dream quintets, all-time all-star trumpet sections, ad nauseam.
I often wonder if these fans ever stop to consider that the Louis-Dempsey fight might have been a dull one. It's conceivable that the nine greatest baseball players in history as far as statistics are concerned might have functioned poorly as a team. And the current all-star big band that was assembled as a result of voting in the Playboy jazz poll looks as if Mack Sennet dreamed the whole thing up as a gag.
In the past no single force has been as guilty of creating illogical and pointless combinations as the record companies. Profit motive, syllogistic thinking (if X sells 50,000 albums a year and Y sells 50,000 albums a year then an album by X and Y will sell 100,000 copies a year), and heaven knows what else have led to some horrendous recorded pairings.
We should all be thankful that in the past when World Pacific or Pacific Jazz brought musicians of stature into the studio to record together, the pairings were not based upon name value alone. Rather empathy and adaptability were used as criteria.
Some memorable Pacific Jazz combinations have been Richard "Groove" Holmes and Gene Ammons ("Groovin' With Jug" PJ-32) and Les McCann and Stanley Turrentine (Les McCann in New York PJ-45). These albums were successful because all parties concerned had a common ground upon which they could meet.
It is for precisely the same reason that this particular album is a success. Les and the Crusaders are possessed of a common denominator in their familiarity with the blues. McCann's primal funk and the Crusader's searing Texas preaching have a natural affinity for each other.
McCann rode the crest of the late fifties soul wave and while others of that era have been washed ashore, Les is still riding high. While the Crusaders didn't make as great an initial splash as McCann, their popularity has been growing steadily, especially in the East where they have yet to be seen in person. Beyond any doubt they are one of the two or three most substantial jazz groups to emerge in the sixties.
I am reluctant about any discussion of the music in this album because I hate to use words to attempt to describe something the ears can understand fully and without any preliminary explanation.
In closing I would inject one brief personal note. Recently when the Ray Charles Band had a two-week stand not far from Philadelphia I had the chance to hang out with my good friend David "Fathead" Newman whose been with Ray Charles for years. "Fathead" is recognized as the current dean of the Texas school of tenor playing. Sometime during the two weeks I happened to ask him what he thought of the Crusaders. His answer was simple. He smiled broadly and said "Yeah." This is much akin to having George Bernard Shaw give you an A in English composition. Need more be said.
-- Joel Dorn