Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Sometimes you get caught at a show which is obviously a loser from midway through the second song. In such situations, the best thing to do is look for an individual performer whose skills transcend the boring music.
Thus, Monday night at Les McCann's show at the Cellar Door, attention was drawn to his young drummer, Kevin Johnson. Johnson played with more variety and conviction than anyone elese on stage. He moved agilely from 30-second notes on the cymbals to syncopated rolls to strong accents.
All round Johnson, however, were the most over-worn of jazz-fusion cliches. McCann himself played only the simplest rhythm and blues rifts with no hint of nuane on electric keyboards. Guitarist Nick Kirgo played fast but predictable scale runs tha had little to do with the melodies at hand.
Like too many others, McCann apparently assumes that his Jazz reputation gives him license to sing in a mediocre soul voice. His narrow range and shallow tone completely obscured the melody to Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are."
With the opening act, the Harold "Ivory" Williams Trio, attention was similarly drawn to the tasteful jazz of guitarist Joe Blacker. Williams, the leader, overxtended both his simplistic piano chords and limited but promising blues voice.