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,
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.