Invitation To Openness (CD reissue)

Les McCann

Omnivore, 2015

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Les McCann is a jazz/soul pianist whose career has reached the 55 years mark. When he released Invitation To Openness in 1972, he was a veteran of close to 25 albums. This album, which fused a jazz improvisational approach with soulful rhythms, has now been remastered and reissued with a live bonus track.

McCann is a pianist/keyboardist with a very light touch. His ability to string notes together while exploring a melody puts him squarely in the jazz improvisation category.  His exploration of rhythm and blues patterns, movements, and sounds within a jazz context make his approach to music not only unique but extremely creative.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

McCann is joined by a stellar group of musicians including Yusef Lateef (sax, oboe, and flute), David Spinozza (guitar), Bernard Purdie (drums), Jimmy Rowser (bass), and Corky Hale (harp).  They form a surprisingly effective unit considering they were assembled specifically for this album.

McCann’s approach is one of feelings and ideas rather than well-crafted and finished songs. “The Lovers,” which took up the entire first side of the original vinyl release, is essentially a 26 minute improvisational piece. It builds slowly as Purdie and Rowser establish a subtle bass/drum foundation. McCann’s approach is almost mythological as his fingers skim the keys. Hale’s harp is the counter point and keeps the song grounded in the present.

“Beaux J. Poo Poo” was recorded in 1965 as a fairly short acoustic piece.  Now it returns in an elongated form with a gritty electric guitar bouncing off McCann’s keyboards as Lateff’s flute floats above the mix.

Lateef returns on “Poo Pye McGoochie” but this time provides a sax solo. Purdie’s drum solo near the end is the perfect bookend for McCann.

The bonus track is a 1975 live version of “Compared To What.” The song was written by soul singer Eugene Daniels and has been recorded by well over 250 artists, including well-known versions by Roberta Flack and Ray Charles.  Originally recorded with Eddie Harris, it is now presented on steroids with a double sax attack of Klaus Doldinger and Jimmie Griffin, plus blistering guitar lines by Philip Catherine.

Invitation To Openness is one of the more creative stops in Les McCann’s long career. It remains one of the more creative releases of its era as it joins together two distinctive styles of music.

Rating: B+

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