On the Soul Side

On the Soul Side

On the Soul Side is the last album Les McCann recorded before a stroke in 1995 permanently hindered his ability to play piano. The album was produced by Alan V. Abrahams, known primarily for his work in the gospel field. Perhaps it was Abrahams who was responsible for suggesting the medley of “Left Every Voice and Sing” and “God Bless America,” a natural fit for McCann. He makes it timeless and traditional, yet it feels like a Les original. The majority of the album is comprised of McCann’s own songs, all of which showcase his undiminished talents as a writer and arranger. The spry rhythms of “Ignominy” and the New Orleans-themed “Dippermouth” sound like the work of someone much younger than the 58-year-old McCann, but then again the pianist always had a flair for reinvention. The album’s pinnacle is the shape-shifting melodic figure that opens “Vu Jade” (a play on “déjà vu”). The burst of melodic energy quickly settles in a thoughtful, measured groove — a shift in tone that harks back to McCann’s early-'70s salad days.

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