Sunday, November 20, 2016

Invitation to Openness: The Jazz & Soul Photography of Les McCann

Invitation to Openness: The Jazz & Soul Photography of Les McCann
Curated by Pat Thomas and Alan Abrahams
Seattle: Fantagraphics Books
2015: 200pp

With the holidays coming up this book focused on the photography of keyboardist-vocalist Les McCann is one that might well be high on your list for the jazz lovers on your gift list. McCann is of course famous for his recordings, including a classic album that helped launch Lou Rawls career and the epic live performance with Eddie Harris at the Montreux Jazz Festival that was issued as the legendary album "Swiss Movement." This book's title derives from a 1972 album on Atlantic. Not only a musician, McCann is also a photographer who has photographed a wide variety of performers as well as political figures and others. Now, from thousands of photographs we are treated to a wonderful coffee table book of his Black and White photography.

One of the selling points of books of musical photography are the specific individuals presented. Here, one will find a wealth of photographic treasures with images of such greats as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Sonny Payne, Gerald Wilson, Miles Davis, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, Yusef Lateef, Cannonball Adderly, Gene McDaniels, Louis Armstrong, B.B. King, Roberta Flack, Nina Simone, Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Gerry Mulligan, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie (including a shot with Herb Albert), Ray Charles, Jean Luc Ponty, Ray Nance, Grover Washington, Ben Webster, Toots Thielemans, Richard 'Groove' Holmes, and others along with shots of Redd Foxx, Bill Cosby (taken far before his present disgrace), Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Wilson Pickett, Richard Pryor, Tina Turner, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Lemmon, Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, and Muhammad Ali.

These pictures range from concert and nightclub shots, backstage images, and informal ones taken outside. We see Cannonball Adderly relaxing and smoking a cigar backstage, Roberta Flack both performing and sitting on a garbage pile. There are street scenes such as a boy on a bicycle in Washington DC as well as a Man on a bicycle. Redd Foxx is shown at the microphone and back stage, and Wilson Pickett with a fan in Ghana. Then there are some contact sheets such as those of Dizzy and Bobby Streisand in performance, and one contact sheet has pictures from the Los Angeles Lakers (Jerry West-Elgin Baylor years) playing the Boston Celtics with also off-court pictures of Johnny Mathis with Red Auerbach and Bill Russell. The negative size shots suggest that he was a more than capable sports photographer as indicated by a terrific picture of then San Francisco Warrior Wilt Chamberlin going up against Lakers Gene Wiley, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.

Interspersed  are  comments on some of the famous people and others. There are so many pictures that brim with their subject's personality whether capturing them informally or in performance. The reproduction strikes my amateur eye as quote good and having looked at this for the first-time in months, I am reminded how much I enjoyed this after I purchased it. Les McCann joins Milt Hinton among  jazz musicians to have their photography documented so well. Highly recommended.

I purchased this. You can check online sites like Barnes and Noble and Amazon for prices. Barnes and Noble has preview of some the images on the page for the book.

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