One of Les McCann's greatest albums, Much Les encapsulates much of what McCann did best in his early years, while adding a few novel embellishments -- like a string section and Latin percussionists -- that enhance his core sound.
The results are winning, likable, and consistently engaging, making for an underrated classic.
However, it's actually the string section that provides the dominant flavor of McCann's accompaniment; of the six tracks, they appear on all three slow songs, plus -- in an offbeat touch -- the laid-back soul-jazz of "Doin' That Thing," giving it an almost movie soundtrack feel.
Fortunately, the album isn't drenched in sentimental glop; the strings are always employed tastefully to give the music a fuller sound and to provide counterpoint to McCann's economical soloing on the ballads.
McCann makes an unspectacular but warmly ingratiating crooner on "With These Hands," his lone vocal number here, which became something of a hit.
Elsewhere, he transforms Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" into one of his signature funky soul-jazz grooves, and returns to his gospel roots on the soulful, exuberant "Burnin' Coal," where he works a simple but infectious beat punctuated by handclaps and shouts.
So the program is nicely varied, and the richer, more expanded arrangements serve to highlight -- not obscure -- the McCann trio's command of the groove.
That's what makes Much Les such an enjoyable, essential listen.