LES MCCANN — On Time (review)

LES MCCANN — On Time album cover Album · 1962 · Soul Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
js
Appearing in 1962, the album “On Time” comes fairly early in Les McCann’s career. Les and his crack rhythm section of drummer Ron Jefferson and bassist Leroy Vinnegar had already recorded a couple of successful albums that had established them as leaders in the new combination of jazz, gospel and blues that was being called ‘soul jazz’. This trio didn’t really need any help, but I suppose in an attempt to push things a little further, ace guitarist Joe Pass was asked to join the band and make it a quartet for the recording of “On Time”. Joe is usually known for his ability to navigate fast moving be-bop changes and similar technically demanding fare, but on this McCann opus, he settles into the band’s blues groove and makes an already exciting group just a bit better. So successful was Pass’ merger with the band that he would go on to record with them again after this album.

“On Time’ opens with the hard driving up tempo of the album’s title cut which establishes this bands musical forte, which has more to do with the funky soul of gospel and blues than jazz per se. Les does not play fleet bop lines, but instead plays those riffs that are well known to the church pianist. From here the album continues with mostly mid-tempo blues. “This for Doug” offers a little change up in that it is that rare blues tune in waltz time. Side two continues the party in fine form, the standard “It Could Happen to You” opens as a slow tempo ballad before the band picks up the beat half way through. The album closes with a surprise when they turn Miles’ well known relaxed cool classic “So What”, into a fast paced be-bop barn burner. If you like this sort of early 60s blues-jazz hybrid, “On Time” will not disappoint. This quartet has talent to burn as they put out an album that smokes from start to finish.
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