Les McCann

The Truth (The Whole Truth & Nothing But The Truth)

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This 78-minute single-CD compilation combines 15 tracks, seven recorded in August 1959 and eight from February 1960. Though the packaging plays up Les McCann's soul influence somewhat (subtitling the disc "Soul Groove Jazz Legend"), this was early in the pianist's solo career. Thus the "truth," to quote the song for which this anthology is named, is that McCann was for the most part doing straight-ahead jazz at this point. It might be soul-influenced, but it's not soul-jazz, and the R&B leanings are relatively slight, at least in comparison to some of his better-known later recordings. The August 1959 session -- with Teddy Edwards on tenor sax, Leroy Vinnegar on bass, and Ron Jefferson on drums -- is the more traditional of the pair featured on this CD, including standards the likes of "Fools Rush In" and "Willow Weep for Me," with just one McCann composition ("Beve's Comjumulations"). Edwards is absent, though Vinnegar and Jefferson remain, on the February 1960 trio session, in which McCann comes more into his own, putting funkier and more gospel-influenced accents into his playing. That's particularly evident on the second half of the most renowned of these tracks, the McCann-penned "The Truth," where he breaks free into some joyous, strutting bluesy soloing, really leaning into bluesy patterns when the rhythm slows near the end. There are still standards in the program ("How High the Moon" and Rodgers & Hart's "This Can't Be Love"), but McCann writes about half the material, though none of the tracks are as memorable as "The Truth." McCann unfortunately does not take any vocals on either of the sessions, but the compilation's still a good-value look at some of his early work, albeit not work that listeners familiar with his more popular recordings may find that characteristic.

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