Les McCann is an interesting figure in jazz. After winning a talent contest on the Ed Sullivan Show in '56, McCann turned down an opportunity to join Cannonball Adderley's group, deciding instead to form his own jazz trio in Los Angeles. Playing a popular blend of hard bop and soul jazz, he signed with Pacific Jazz in '60, produced several enjoyable albums, and continued to develop and define the sound he wanted. That sound, a restless brew of jazz, funk, and soul, came to fruition on albums like 1968's Much Les and 1969's Swiss Movement, which produced the platinum-selling single ...read more
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 ...read more
After Eddie Harris and Les McCann recorded the legendary album, Swiss Movement, they didn't rest on their laurels. Nor did they go their separate ways.They recorded another album, Second Movement. However, Second Movement never has been available on CD until now, now that Label M's Joel Dorn has revisited that session with yet another valuable release on the new label.While Swiss Movement was recorded live before a cheering and vocally appreciative audience at Montreaux, Second Movement was a more controlled project that called in musicians to produce a follow-up album in a studio.That doesn't ...read more
The twenty fingers in the title for this double reissue CD come from two exciting piano trios of the 1960s. Both Les McCann and Dwike Mitchell offer blues-based, gospel influenced piano storytelling on their Atlantic albums Much Les and The Catbird Seat, respectively. McCann was at the peak of his career then, still using an acoustic piano and always infusing a groove into his work. Mitchell and Ruff started out at about the same time as McCann: the mid-‘50s. Bassist Willie Ruff and pianist Dwike Mitchell left Lionel Hampton’s band early on to perform mainstream jazz as a duo; Ruff ...read more
The idea goes like this. The hip and jazz-loving Joel Dorn and his folks as 32 Jazz have decided to introduce a series whereby they put out two albums by different artists that are somehow related in one package. This two-disc set brings together two Atlantic classics, the previously available Much Les from Les McCann and the long out-of-print The Catbird Seat by the Mitchell-Ruff Trio. So it tells us in the opening liner notes, McCann had expressed his affection for Dwike Mitchell's piano work on one of Dorn's radio shows back in the '60s, and clearly that influence is ...read more
20 Special Fingers is an unusual two-disc combination of Les McCann's 1968 Atlantic debut, Much Les (already available on CD as a Rhino two-fer) with the Mitchell-Ruff Trio's 1961 Atlantic debut, The Catbird Seat. Joel Dorn, producer of the McCann set and owner of the label that issued this set, explains this oddity by recalling in the disc's notes a favorite McCann performance of Yours Is My Heart Alone" (from 1964) that was evidently inspired by Dwike Mitchell's earlier performance of the tune.While inspiration and execution rarely sound the same, interesting pianism is certainly consistent ...read more
How's Your Mother?" is a live date from 1967 that has lain in the can from then to now - not because there is anything lacking about it (quite the contrary!) but as a testament to the cornucopia of great music that was lying around everywhere in 1967, so that Trane's Interstellar Space (and around a hundred others) didn't see the light of day until the Seventies, Alfred Lion over at Blue Note was writing to Dexter Gordon that some of his most monstrously swinging music wasn't up to snuff, and Les McCann could record a magical live date like ...read more
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 ...read more
Perhaps as good as any compilation can get, Les McCann: Talkin' Verve hardly lives up to its acid-jazz premise or its subject's real talents. Still, it does rescue some of the lost music pianist/vocalist Les McCann made over six albums for the Limelight label between 1964 and 1967. Seems the folks at Verve were going for a goofy menu of gospel-jazz, pop crap, and funky soul to round out an hour of not always choice McCann moments.As can be expected, the jewels of the collection are the small-group jazz numbers with McCann's groovin' gospel piano out front ("Little ...read more
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