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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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The Gospel Truth /
Soul Hits / McCanna

BGO Records
BGOCD 1105



The Gospel Truth
1. The Gospel Truth
2. Isn't It Wonderful
3. Oh The Joy
4. Let Us Break Bread Together
5. Didn't It Rain
6. Send It On Down To Me
7. Get That Soul
8. The Preacher
9. Were You There
10. Bye And Bye
Les McCann - Piano
Stanley Gilbert - Bass
Paul Humphrey - Drums
Charles Kynard - Organ (tracks 1, 6, 9)
Soul Hits
1. Back At The Chicken Shack
2. Sack O' Woe
3. Groove Yard
4. Sermonette
5. Sonnymoon For Two
6. Bag's Groove
7. Silk Stockings
8. Sister Sadie
9. Li'l Darlin'
10. Work Song
Les McCann - Piano
Joe Pass - Guitar
Paul Chambers - Bass
Paul Humphrey - Drums
11. McCanna
12. St. James Infirmary
13. It Had Better Be Tonight
14. Que Rico
15. Zulu
16. Basuto Baby
17. Falling In Love With Love
18. Narobi Nights
19. Shaam-Pu II
Les McCann - Piano
Victor Gaskin - Bass
Paul Humphrey - Drums
Willie Correa - Bongoes, conga, timbales


This double CD comprises the contents of three LPs from 1963 and 1964. Les MacCann had already become the most profitable artist for the Pacific Jazz label, even though his earthy, down-home style differed from the cool jazz of most West-Coast musicians.

Hearing these recordings, one can understand McCann's popularity. His playing was not particularly clever or technical but he could set up an irresistible rhythm that made listeners tap their feet. His variety of jazz was soulful and funky, without pretensions. It embraced influences from the blues, soul and gospel music.

The gospel influence is particularly clear in the first LP, which applies McCann's methods to familiar gospel songs. The sleeve-note refers to McCann as "this guy who comes closer to preaching on the piano than anyone I've heard". The addition of organist Charles Kynard on three tracks increasess the gospel feeling, reminding us of those gospel singers who were often accompanied by a pianist and an organist. And drummer Paul Humphrey augments the beat, as he does on all the LPs in this compilation. Note, for example, how he adds the hint of a Latin beat to Oh The Joy. Les McCann is not restricted to funky numbers but he plays a tune like Let Us Break Bread Together at a very slow and thoughtful tempo.

The album Soul Hits arose from McCann's experience of doing a gig with bassist Paul Chambers and wanting to record an LP with him. This session also includes guitarist Joe Pass, who gets a lot of solo space: sometimes it seems as if he gets more than Les. The repertoire consists of tunes which were successes for other artists. Frank Foster's Shiny Stockings is wrongly listed as Shiny Silk Stockings on the sleeve, but the group sets up a chugging rhythm reminiscent of the Oscar Peterson Trio. It is particularlty interesting to hear Les McCann's treatment of another Count Basie number - Li'l Darlin' - which the quartet takes at almost as slow a tempo as Basie did.

The concept for the LP McCanna was suggested by Richard Bock, President of Pacific Records, who suggested that Les should record with bongoes and conga drums "to produce a more percussive kind of music". McCann's enthusiasm for the idea was intensified when he saw an African music group at the World's Fair, and Willie Correa was inducted to join McCann's combo. The percussionist adds an extra sound to the group but doesn't necessarily add much to the percussiveness, as McCann always managed to generate a strong beat with his own trio. But Willie Correa imparts a Latin-American atmosphere to Les McCann's usual sound, although it's rather superfluous in a track like St James Infirmary. Falling In Love With Love with its economical approach reminds me of Ahmad Jamal.

For McCann fans, this compilation offers more than 100 minutes of music at a reasonable price.

Tony Augarde

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