Les McCann

Swiss Movement [Video]

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On June 21, 1969, pianist/vocalist Les McCann and his trio (with bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Donald Dean) were scheduled to appear at the Montreux Jazz Festival. At almost the last minute, it was decided to have tenor saxophonist Eddie Harris and trumpeter Benny Bailey sit in with the group, even though they were unfamiliar with most of the material. The unlikely result was the high point of Les McCann's career, a highlight of Eddie Harris' career, and a best-selling jazz record, Swiss Movement. "Compared to What" (which has McCann's only vocal of the set) became a big hit, and Harris' "Cold Duck Time" also caught on. More than a quarter-century later, the actual performance has now been made available on this black and white video, which is generally in good shape except for brief moments on "Compared to What." In addition to four of the six selections from the famous set, the film also features Eddie Harris on a version of "Listen Here" with an unidentified trio (including pianist Jodie Christian) from the same day, showing off his skills on an electronic sax. Seeing, rather than just hearing, this music leads to a few revelations. For example, during Benny Bailey's spectacular solo on "Cold Duck Time" on the record, the crowd seems to erupt in reaction to his playing, but on the film the truth comes out: The audience was actually excited by the sight of Ella Fitzgerald entering the hall and taking her seat. A highly recommended and rather historic video.