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

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In San Francisco

Fresh Sound FSR-CD 682



1. Oh, Them Golden Gates
2. Red Sails in the Sunset
3. Big Jim
4. I Am in Love
5. Jeepers Creepers
6. Gone On and Get That Church
7. We'll See Yaw'll After While, Ya Heah
8. Frankie and Johnnie
9. Medley: But Beautiful/It Could Happen to You
10.Taking a Chance on Love
11. Love Letters

Les McCann - Piano
Herbie Lewis - Bass
Ron Jefferson - Drums


Recorded in 1960, early in Les McCann's career, this album shows how and why he was making a name for himself. At a time when jazz fans were possibly confused by the differing styles on offer, Les went back to the roots of jazz: swing, the blues and gospel music. With a bassist and drummer who shared his no-nonsense approach, McCann appealed to people who wanted the basics of jazz - as you can hear in the enthusiastic response of the audience here.

McCann proves here that he is not merely a swinging pianist with elements of the blues and gospel. He also uses dynamics with care to feed drama into his playing. For example, his version of Red Sails in the Sunset starts with intriguing trills before launching into a slow, dramatic revelation of the melody. A long-drawn-out crescendo leads into a passage where the piano speaks to the double bass. The tune is repeated and decorated at a springy tempo. This eight-minute performance may seem basic but it has the ebb and flow which indicates that Les is thinking carefully about how he plays.

This intelligent use of dynamics is present throughout most of the items on the album. In Big Jim, the bass and drums lay out for twelve bars so as to increase the tension when they re-enter. Familiar tunes like Jeepers Creepers are mixed with little-known songs like Cole Porter's I Am in Love. And the medley of But Beautiful and It Could Happen to You demonstrates McCann's ability to deliver ballads with sensitivity.

The last four tracks were not on the original LP but come from the same sessions. The recording is well balanced, so that you can hear the bass and drums clearly. This CD is a must for lovers of unpretentious, down-home jazz.

Tony Augarde

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