One of my favorite movies of all times is One Night On Earth. It’s a cinematic dream of just how connected we are as a species and all the synchronicity that life flings at us. The movie is a collection of five stories involving cab drivers in five different cities from around the world. Which is a causal or persuasive link to my nocturnal behavior of getting out of bed, grabbing my camera and climb behind the steering wheel of my KIA and drive. I actually like driving late at night. When I say late, I don’t mean 10 PM, or even midnight – I mean like the witching hours from 2 am to sunrise. There is no other time of day where you can see typically the most congested street completely empty. It’s like being teleported as the last man on earth. A bat maneuvering in the dark, it uses a process called echolocation. Echolocation refers to the process of using echoes and sound waves to navigate around objects. For my excursion into the great Basin of Los Angeles, I too use echolocation in the form of music to tap into the auditory cortex of my brain and beyond to the “seat of the soul” the pineal gland. The music dictates when I should proceed straight ahead or turn left or right. Tonight’s soundtrack is “A Perfect Place” a Morricone-esque soundtrack by Mike Patton. Ready set go!Among the endless metaphors for life, a road is perhaps one of the best. There’s times for speed, times for caution and times to stop. Ahead, the lights of a psychic storefront beckon me to take time to stop and enjoy the cold Pink’s hotdog I picked up earlier. This is A Perfect Place for myOne Night On Earth.
“Jesus you are taking this very seriously bro… It was a joke, stop blithering about an argument we weren’t having over music. Nobody is putting you down, quit being so fragile man. Lets just remain calm and put the thesaurus brain down on the ground nice and easy like.”
“Wow.. Thank you .. you know I played your lists in the car… cheeky stuff… friends always ask .. “what’s that you’re listening to?” glad to oblige .. thanks again for your critique.. I’m a Gimini by the way .. been in bands & played all my life .. for me this is real musician’s music.” ..
“Sounds like some kind of a noir fetish man, where did you find that track at a tobacco shop ?… it’s so slow, listening to this, I couldn’t steady myself with too much scotch in the tank…. way too much smoke in my eyes bro. All I could think about was a pair of soft tits, hard balls and the alabaster stems of the wing feathers.. What is the connection man?..Is it the connections that could keeps you alive or see me dead ? You are more cagier than a Soviet info broker and sharper than a Yakuza blade.”
“Wowww man, I’m shocked with your close minded taste of my music and an attitude of a femme fatal bitch…what did you have for breakfast…a can of dog food? I wouldn’t even be tempted to playing violin at your mothers funeral… for a dollars man.”
“Dont worry man…you will die, just enjoy your music now. By the way – your heart doesnt want to die, it will fight for you and your body to the last microsecond when it will stop. Be grateful for the light that comes through your pupils, one day they will turn grey and you – you will would be gone forever and your stupid music will be forgotten.”
“Hey ! You ready for lunch ?”
“Yeah, I’m hungry, your car or mine ?”
“Where do you want to go….Tally Rand or Los Amigos?”
Seemingly unconscious of my presences there is a moment between silence and mid-note that my lens captures Randy’s silhouette. He rehearses, then pauses to contemplate a melodic and rhythmic pattern – as he continues to rehearse Randy fills the room with waves of invisible sentiment. To the ear its blues, cool, romantic and yet a feeling of expressing pensive sadness. The rehearsal room tuns blue.
While flipping burgers at McDonald’s in the early 90’s, Edward Moss was repeatedly told by co-workers and customers of his strong resemblance to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Edward likeness became his asset leading him from the business of cardboard hamburgers to show business on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One of Edward’s first appearances as “The Gloved One” was at the old Hollywood Wax Museum. Standing at the entrance of the museum as living statue of Michael Jackson. Curious tourist would stop to take a gander at what they thought was a wax figure. As the vacationers gather for a closer look on cue a track of music would blast from the museum speakers. Startled by the music and movement, Edward would start dancing across the polished entrance of the museum to the surprise and amusement of his audience. For the Hollywood Wax Museum they sold tickets and for Edward it was the beginning to a career as a Michael Jackson impersonator.
It is my favorite assignment, photographing musicians while in rehearsal or in a recording studios. It is the moment that the musicians delve deeply into the musical notes on a sheet of paper and give birth to a sound that becomes airborne with an arsenal of emotions. Like a still image, music can act as a synthetic acid which enhances flashbacks to a moment in time that has been joyful or painful and never forgotten. Music is the needle and thread that sews our humanity together and in spite of being in metal boxes on Golden State 5 you can witness the joy of Angelenos as they boogie, jive and groove to their own soundtrack, it is a collective consciousness of moving forward to the beat of their own music.
Les McCann first gained some fame in 1956 when he won a talent contest in the Navy as a singer that resulted in an appearance on television on The Ed Sullivan Show . McCann reached the peak of his career in 1968 Montreux Jazz Festival, recording “Compared to What” with saxophonist Eddie Harris. After the success of Swiss Movement album, McCann — primarily a piano player — began to emphasize his rough-hewn vocals more. He became an innovator in the soul jazz style, merging jazz with funk, soul and world rhythms. He was also among the first jazz musicians to include electric piano, clavinet, and synthesizer in his music. In 1971 McCann and Harris were part of a touring group of soul, R&B, and rock performers which included Wilson Pickett,The Staple Singers, Santan and Ike & Tina Turner. McCann is also credited in discovering Roberta Flack and obtained an audition which resulted in a recording contract for Ms. Flack with Atlantic Records.
In the mid 90’s McCann suffered a stroke that weakened his keyboard playing but his powerful singing kept him on the road. McCann’s comeback was solidified in 2002’s with “Pump It Up” a guest-heavy celebration of funk and jazz released on ESC Records. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Swiss Movement album, tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson brought veteran McCann and a young trio of musicians to the KC Jazz Club for Swiss Movement Revisited.
Jackson is used to working with legends he cut his musical teeth with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the 1980s. He went on to record with such greats as the late Freddie Hubbard, Elvin Jones, Cedar Walton and Stanley Turrentine. Jackson leads his own group, and his latest release (Once Upon a Melody) hit No. 1 on the jazz radio charts.
In a 2009 Kennedy Center performance the interaction between Jackson, his young talented musicians and the old lion at the keyboard, Les McCann, reminded the audience that the old lion can still roar with heart.