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On the Soul Side

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Album Review

While other Les McCann albums have emphasized R&B or soul-jazz vocals, the singer/pianist does very little singing on this CD. Only on "Look to Your Heart" can McCann's vocals be heard. Except for "God Bless America" (which contains a memorable vocal by Lou Rawls), all of the other tracks are jazz instrumentals. Joined by saxman Keith Anderson, trumpeter Jeff Elliott, bassist Abraham Laboriel, and drummer Tony St. James, a 58-year-old McCann makes jazz pianism his top priority on this album. It's a very lyrical and accessible sort of jazz pianism — those who have spent a lot of time savoring Gene Harris' playing or getting into Joe Sample's Carmel should appreciate McCann's melodic playing on "Back Rub," "Shabalala," and other originals. Sadly, On the Soul Side is the last studio album that McCann would record as a leader before suffering a major stroke in early 1995 — one that weakened his piano playing without depriving him of his ability to sing.


Born: 23 September 1935 in Lexington, KY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Les McCann reached the peak of his career at the 1969 Montreux Jazz Festival, recording "Compared to What" and "Cold Duck Time" for Atlantic (Swiss Movement) with Eddie Harris and Benny Bailey. Although he has done some worthwhile work since then, much of it has been anticlimactic. McCann first gained some fame in 1956 when he won a talent contest in the Navy as a singer that resulted in an appearance on television on The Ed Sullivan Show. After being discharged, he formed a trio in Los Angeles....
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On the Soul Side, Les McCann
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