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Pump It Up by Les McCann

Les McCann is back, actually by demand, because ESC Records approached producer Alan Abrahams with the request to record him again after a lull in McCann’s recording activity of several years. Les McCann is one of those irrepressible jazz icons whose presence is felt, even when not seen, through the immediate transmission of feeling and groove, no matter what he performs.

His career stalled by a major stroke in 1995, one which left him unable to play piano again, McCann’s creative spirit couldn’t be dampened or damaged, even though his means of expression was limited. Starting to paint and archiving his multitude of photographs taken over more than three decades, McCann slowly emerged from musical isolation as he lent his presence to a re-formed group in which he was the musical and inspirational leader and the lead singer.

Taking a cue from his earlier group, McCann and Abrahams decided to pull out all the stops, so to speak, on a funk album that prominently features the frequent presence of Ricky Peterson’s soulful B-3 accompaniment and McCann’s in-your-face lyrics. The point is, though, that listeners remember McCann’s lyrics like "You come to me with all your problems, Telling everything that’s on your mind. If you don’t like what I say to you, You can kiss my big behind.... . CAN’T STAND IT!" Not only can listeners identify with the situations that McCann describes, but they smile at his reactions: "Hold on To your man. Don’t ask me why, Just do it. Grab hold with both hands. I’m here to tell you Everything that you should know."

McCann gave hints of his growing interest in recording again on Bill Evans’s album, Soul Insider, on which McCann sang two songs. With the opportunity to record an entire album, McCann has recruited other artists who share his sense of fun and funk, like Dianne Reeves (on Bill Withers’s "You Just Can’t Smile It Away), Bonnie Raitt and Billy Preston (on the overdub to McCann’s piano-playing on the 1964 version of "The Truth") and Maceo Parker, Dean Brown and Marcus Miller (on Brown’s spirited "Funk It [Let The Music Play]").

So, in spite of the debilitation that didn’t slow him down a bit, McCann not only manages to, but wildly succeeds in connecting with his fans as a singer, composer, lyricist and arranger with the same abandon and earthiness that his enthusiasts have enjoyed for almost 50 years.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Les McCann
  • CD Title: Pump It Up
  • Genre: Soul / Funk Jazz
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: ESC
  • Tracks: Pump It Up, Buckshot And Lefonque, Let It Ride (The Train), I Can’t 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)
  • Musicians: Les McCann (vocals, piano); Dianne Reeves, Bonnie Raitt (vocals); Bill Churchville (trumpet); Keith Anderson, Bill Evans (saxophones); Tom Saviano, Maceo Parker (alto saxophone); Ricky Peterson, Billy Preston (Hammond B-3, piano); Paul Peterson, Dean Brown, Paul Jackson, Jr., Adam Kirk, Tony Maiden (guitars); Abraham Laboriel, Marcus Miller, Herbie Lewis (bass); John Robinson, Ron Jefferson (drums); Justin Johnson, Alan Abrahams (drum programming); Paulinho da Costa (percussion); Maxayn Lewis, Margaret Fowler, Jim Gilstrap (background vocals)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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