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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Plays the Shout

Fresh Sound FSR-CD 656



1. But Not For Me
2. Les Talks to the Audience
3. A Foggy Day
4. This is the Way We Shout (aka.The Shout)
5. Set Call: Sonar
6. C Jam Blues
7. Jubilation
8. A Night In Tunisia
9. Set Call: Cute
10. Tellin' Em About It
11. Three Slaves
12. On Green Dolphin Street
13. Set Call: The Champ

Les McCann - Piano
Leroy Vinnegar - Bass
Ron Jefferson - Drums


Les McCann is yet another of those jazzmen who has been bypassed by fashion. His style of no-nonsense piano-playing seems to be out of vogue, even though its mixture of blues, gospel and jazz can be mightily electrifying. Perhaps he is shunned as being too basic, yet he can be inventive as well as funky. For instance, note the unusual chords in the opening But Not For Me, a tune which you might think had been monopolised by Ahmad Jamal. McCann's treatment is more straightforward than Jamal's but none the less invigorating. And his slow decrescendo at the end of this track proves that he could use dynamics to good effect.

His version of A Foggy Day shows that he is equally adept at ballads as at up-tempo funk numbers. The title-track is a tune with a gospelly feel which has the same sort of atmosphere as Billy Taylor's I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free. C Jam Blues starts mysteriously, only hinting at the tune with a long trill on one note - otherwise it could be any blues. Les tends to hurry Junior Mance's Jubilation, slurring the notes, and he tends to simplify A Night in Tunisia but they are still soulful performances. Almost every tune that Les plays soon turns into a blues outing. Leroy Vinnegar and Ron Jefferson help him make each song an onward drive.

Tellin' 'Em About It and Three Slaves are slowish but funky numbers, the latter illustrating McCann's ability to conceive a catchy tune. On Green Dolphin Street starts at an unexpectedly slow tempo, then gradually speeds up to a relaxed bounce.

The first nine tracks were on the original LP Les McCann Plays the Shout and they are supplemented by four tracks from other albums - all recorded in 1960 at The Bit coffee house in Hollywood. McCann chats to the audience between some numbers (and they laugh uproariously) but his remarks are almost incomprehensible because of the deep-toned recording. But it's the music that counts here, and that's fine.

Tony Augarde

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