WHAT'S TO BE FOUND inside "Les McCann's Music Box," a live album recorded at Blues Alley last May? Something old, something new and a lot that's blue.
For starters, there's a boisterous reprise of McCann and Eddie Harris' monster hit "Compared to What." McCann speaks so directly to the emotions that even familiar tunes such as this one are still welcome. So while "Compared to What" (sans Harris this time around) really ranks as no surprise, you're likely to find it every bit as irresistible as those who catch this club performance live.
As for the new, the funky "Elephant Strut" and the lovely ballad "All Strung Out on You" (reminiscent of Grover Washington Jr.) are clearly tailored for contemporary taste. Yet they boast subtle and sensitive performances from McCann and saxophonist Bobby Bryant Jr., bassist Curtis Robinson Jr. and drummer Raymond Pounds.
And the blue? Well, McCann's fingers never roam far from the keys that create that mood. Dizzy Gillespie's "Blue & Boogie" is an especially vivid reminder of how attuned McCann is to the idiom. But hardly a chorus passes here that doesn't in some way recall his roots in blues and gospel music.
LES McCANN -- "Les McCann's Music Box" (Jam 019); appearing Friday through Sunday at Blues Alley.