When you get right down to it, the gossamer veil separating the star and the ordinary performer is suspended on tiny threads of M-A-G-N-E-T-I-S-M. This single quality is that elusive, indefinable element that traverses audience resistance. When confronted with the dual edge of talent and magnetism, there's hardly a "free-thinker" alive who can remain indifferent to sparkling creativity. Les McCann is a magnetic star. He can electrify, as well as entertain.
Onions make you cry? Not really! Turn on Spanish Onions and experience one happy, exotic smile after another. From the instant the personable pixie, McCann, drops his agile fingers on the keyboard, the air is charged. With conviction: he believes his music and in the absolute necessity of its communication. With intensity: he winds himself into the workings of his music. As the music churns and twists, so does the pianist. With expression: as he feels, so he plays. And therein lies the basic trait of Les McCann.
Those of us who have been around since the Pacific Coast pianist burst onto the scene during the "soul emergence" have watched Les McCann continue to experiment and evolve with the music around him. He refuses to be locked into any one style, type or category. Spanish Onions is a typical example of his versatility. His fancy roams from classic orientation to folk simplicity and his fingers follow ably, to do the bidding. He lays bare his emotions and prods the listeners' sensibilities until these emotions are given audience. Indeed, here is an artist who functions most satisfactorily and most completely when he is able to establish a pulsating rapport with his listeners.
His most significant records have been those recorded at live performances. The Shout was taped live at a Los Angeles Les McCann landmark, The Bit. The "really big" one, The Shampoo, was recorded live at New York's Village Gate. So, to casually mention here that Spanish Onions is another live performance, is an inside tip-off. And there is an additional element of communion here. This album was recorded at an after hours concert at the Esquire Theater in Los Angeles. Where can you find a more responsive, receptive group of swingers than those who sip together a cup of wee hours laced with dawn?
Onions make you cry? Nor really!
-- Sid McCoy