Les McCann / Joja Wendt

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Pacifique Review

by Richard S. Ginell

Les McCann carried on with his music despite suffering a serious stroke in 1995, although he often needed the help of a second keyboardist. While McCann's first recording after his stroke, Listen Up!, was little more than a workmanlike reminder that he was back, his second, Pacifique, is a joy despite, or perhaps because, of its unusual, stripped-down format. The CD consists of a series of duets where Les comps on Fender Rhodes electric piano, exercises his gravelly voice, and finds a helping hand and soulmate in the rollicking acoustic piano of European keyboardist Joja Wendt. Many of the tunes are remakes, often fine ones, of past McCann rousers like "What's Goin' On," "With These Hands," and a rumbling, scatted "Cold Duck Time" (in memoriam, Eddie Harris). Ever a devotee of the sacred and the profane, Les offers deeply felt renditions of "Amazing Grace" and "Prince of Peace" (formerly known as "The Longer You Wait") almost back-to-back with some lascivious blues, while also celebrating life with "What a Wonderful World." Pacifique is probably the best, most truthful record Les has made in at least 20 years, for at last, the real bawdy, devout, soulful, swinging Les McCann is back.

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