How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
This intriguing, previously unreleased set captures Les McCann's working trio with bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Frank Severino live at the Village Vanguard on July 16, 1967. It's an exceptionally well recorded fifty-minute set that mixes four group originals with two Cole Porter tunes and two unfortunate pop staples of McCann's ("Goin' Out of My Head," "Sunny"). McCann was at a career high at this point, as his artistically satisfying Limelight years were ending and his successful eight-year run on Atlantic was about to begin (the same group recorded Live at Bohemian Caverns for Limelight the following month).
The trio is McCann's ideal unit and he shows off all his best tricks here. And anyone who's ever seen the big man live knows how much drama he can pack into a song (something very few of today's re-boppers and modal copycats even dare consider). He's got showmanship to spare. The only grudge is McCann's off-mike growling as he gets going. But that's a minor quibble when you hear what his fingers are doing.
Highlights are plenty: the moody "Love For Sale," the rollicking gospel cocktail of Porter's "I Am In Love," Leroy Vinnegar's blues, "Doin' That Thing" (chock full of McCann quotes from "Wade in the Water," "Caravan" and even "Goin Out of my Head"), a beautiful "Sunny" and McCann's jaunty "Blues." Even "Goin' Out Of My Head" is taken a bit more seriously by McCann here than on the Bohemian Caverns date.
Despite the disc's odd title and bizarre cover art (McCann with Hubert Humphrey!), this is a terrific set, at a bargain price, very much worth exploring.
Personnel: Les McCann: piano; Frank Severino: drums; Leroy Vinnegar: bass.
< b>Tracks:Love For Sale; I Can Dig It; Doin' that Thing; I Am In Love; Goin' Out Of my head; Sunny; Blues; The Shampoo.