Joe Alterman Plays Les McCann – Big Mo & Little Joe (ENG review)

Alterman Music – Street Date August 7th 2023
Joe Alterman Plays Les McCann - Big Mo & Little Joe

In the beginning… The first time the two pianists met, Les McCann didn’t even bother to formally greet Joe Alterman. McCann, then in a wheelchair, simply approached the stage at the legendary Blue Note in New York, where the young pianist was adjusting the sound, and said to him, “Play me some blues, young man.”
When reading these lines, one might think that the outcome couldn’t be remarkable… but to understand why this album was deemed “essential” upon first listen, one must know the rest of this story. The response was met with a simple “Amen,” and that’s how an unlikely friendship began, lasting for over a decade. The two men are separated by over half a century; McCann is confined to a medical rehabilitation center in Los Angeles, while Alterman left New York six years ago to return to his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. But since their first meeting in 2012, according to Alterman, “hardly a day has gone by without us talking.”
This friendship is felt in every note of this album, with the delicacy of piano playing and the inspiration of Joe Alterman, accompanied by Kevin Smith on double bass and Justin Chesarek on drums, making this album truly magical. Because this close relationship forms the deep emotional core of Joe Alterman Plays Les McCann: Big Mo & Little Joe. Released on August 11, 2023, the album is a tender tribute from Alterman to his mentor and friend. The set of eleven songs draws from McCann’s legendary career, from the robust acoustic swing of his trio Les McCann Ltd., to the powerful funk of his partnership with the great tenor saxophonist Eddie Harris, and even his pioneering but lesser-known electric years, which foreshadowed the improvised music movement and earned him admirers ranging from Frank Zappa to A Tribe Called Quest.
It’s impossible not to be touched by this album, as it’s a pleasure to listen to and easy to go from track to track while being filled with admiration for these wonderful artists, whom Les McCann would undoubtedly have been proud of, as the sensitivity of his work is so beautifully conveyed here.
All jazz enthusiasts must have this album, which will quickly become a reference for both jazz aficionados and jazz pianists. It’s a remarkable album, intelligent, captivating—what more could you ask for?

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, July 23rd 2023


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