When Richard Bock, president of Pacific Jazz/World-Pacific Records, called me in Toronto, Canada to talk about an album concept he had in mind I didn't know, frankly, quite what to think of the idea. It involved, among other things, the use of bongo and conga drums with my regular group, in an effort to produce a more percussive kind of music. I told him I'd give it some serious thought and see what we could come up with.
From Toronto we went to New York and an engagement at Birdland. It has been previously decided to record in New York at the Atlantic Studios where Richard would meet me. Earlier, a friend of mine, Pat Harris, had urged me "make sure you go to the World's Fair and see the African Pavillion." Shortly after arriving in New York, I called Pat and suggested we go to the Fair. The show was just starting as we entered the African Pavillion. . . they were doing a "wedding song." It was absolutely fantastic! One of the dancers saw me and nodded hello. A few minutes later the M.C. came down and asked if I'd like to come back to the dressing room area. . . as the show ended and they came off stage, I was introduced to each of them. The feeling in their company was the ultimate of warmness. This was the beginning of a good relationship that inspired me to much eagerness as far as the recording of my album was concerned; I couldn't wait to get started on it! Richard's ideas about a more percussive approach together with my coming in contact with the Zulus proved to be the combination that makes this album unique and for me, very satisfying.
Later, while we were shooting the cover photo, I met all the Zulus again. I did the usual thing of trying to learn a few of their words, and of course, I had to get one that has a naughty connotation. We had a lot of fun putting each other on. . . I pretended to be their interpreter, in the funny little language I've spoken for years that has no meaning at all. The Zulus went right along with this and we all had a good laugh. . . you see, the thing is, they all speak perfect English!
I want to say thanks to all the fellows for their help and beg pardon of the people in "Chuck's Composite" Restaurant who were stunned when we all walked in as guests of Norman Griner. . . the Zulus all in full war costume. Later, they put on a show "Chuck's" will never forget. Also thanks to: Corky Tlhotlhalemaje, Joe Ngoetjana, Sidney Motha, Meshack Mosia, Brian Ferdinand, Ernest Mohcomi, Ferdinand Mafata, Herbert Manana and Philimon Hou (Union Artists / Johannesburg, South Africa). . . and, oh yes, Willie Correa.
-- Les McCann