Les McCann: Pump It Up (2002)
The venerable jazz pianist and vocalist Les McCann finds himself a master of funk on Pump It Up. With a “tight as a fist” rhythm section of bass, drums, guitar and Hammond B-3 organ, McCann’s band has a groove funkier than the law allows. Crisp drumming with hammering backbeats, plus chunky bass and organ figures underscore McCann’s vocals that at times more closely resemble a rap recitation than singing. Honking saxophone solos and harmonious background vocals that comment on McCann’s vocal lines in the great Rhythm and Blues tradition complete the package.
The performances on the recording include guest appearances by jazz diva Dianne Reeves on the Bill Withers ballad “You Just Can’t Smile it Away,” and veteran keyboard player and vocalist Billy Preston on “Tryin’ to Make it Real” as well as the strongly gospel inspired “The Truth.” Blues singer Bonnie Raitt also makes an appearance on “The Truth,” adding her personal style of delivering “the word.”
All in all, Les McCann’s Pump It Up is a delightfully grooving piece of work. It offers high-level musicianship and some incredibly tight playing that could serve as a clinic in how to play in a great funky R&B band. This CD is recommended for Les McCann fans and those whose musical interests expand to include the world of funky Rhythm and Blues.
Track Listing: Pump It Up, Buckshot and LaFonque, Let it Ride (the Train), I Cant' Stand It, So What, You Just Can't Smile It Away, Tryin' to Make it Real, The Truth, Daylight, Funk It (Let the Music Play), I Can't Stand It--reprise
Personnel: Les McCann, vocals; Ricky Peterson, Hammon B-3 organ; John Robinson, drums; Paul Jackson Jr., rhythm guitar; Abraham Laboriel, bass; Marcus Miller, bass; Maceo Parker, saxophone; Billy Preston, keyboards; Bill Evans, saxophone; Bonnie Raitt, vocals; Dianne Reeves, vocals; Paulinho da Costa, Latin percussion; Keith Anderson, saxophone; Tom Saviano, saxophone; Bill Churchville, trumpet; Tony Maiden, guitar; Maxaynh Lewis, Margaret Fowler Alan Abrahams, and Jim Gilstrap, background vocals.