Invitation to Openness is not only the title of one of jazz great Les McCann‘s most celebrated albums; it’s also the title of his new book of photography and essays. Throughout his storied career as a touring and recording jazz musician, McCann came face to face – in personal, intimate settings – with legends in music, film and public life. An accomplished amateur (though he’d effectively “go pro”), McCann shot countless photos in crisp black-and-white, capturing his subjects in a knowing manner that (for example) publicity photos often fail to convey.
And one of the book’s most striking qualities is its variety. McCann’s lens captures onstage photos, backstage photos. He includes posed shots, candids. His subjects are famous musicians and unidentified people. Comics like Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx are featured, as are photos taken at pro basketball games. Yet somehow, with all this diverse imagery, there’s a unifying aesthetic within the pages of Invitation to Openness: The Jazz & Soul Photography of Les McCann 1960-1980.
McCann had a pair of collaborators for the book project: his longtime manager and confidante Alan Abrahams, and Pat Thomas, author of the book Listen Whitey: The Sounds of Black Power.
Some of the photos in Invitation to Openness are left to speak for themselves; others include McCann’s annotation. McCann writes that the book’s early 1970s photos of jazz great Julian “Cannonball” Adderley are some of his favorites.
Invitation to Openness is a carefully compiled work with superb reproductions of Les McCann's photography, and the notes and essays – including incisive pieces from McCann as well as collaborators Abrahams and Thomas – make the finished product essential not only as a book to read start to finish, but as an attractive coffee table book as well.