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Les McCann, Javon Jackson

David Gilmore

Bettye LaVette

Photos by Rudy Lu

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The Egg
Albany, NY
November 19, 2011

by Rudy Lu

It was an evening of contemporary nostalgia at the Egg.  The legendary Les McCann appeared with the more contemporary Javon Jackson Quartet.  They shared the bill with   newly discovered veteran soul singer Bettye LaVette.

Les McCann’s set featured tunes from his legendary 1969 album “Swiss Movement” with tenor saxophonist Eddie Harris. Javon Jackson and company did not try to imitate the late Harris’ sound but laid down a solid groove reminiscent of the down home mixture of R&B/soul jazz sounds of Ronnie Laws and the Crusaders from the early/mid seventies.

McCann charmed the audience with his presence and banter, reminding them what “Cold Duck “ is in reference to (Cheap Sparkling Red Wine) and having them sing the chorus of “ Compared to What”.

The set also featured Jackson’s funky composition “In the Sticks” and a soulful duet of “ Amazing Grace” by McCann and Jackson.

Bettye LaVette has been in the music business for 49 years. Despite early recognition as a major talent and recording her first single in 1962, she did not get her first album released until 1982, and very little recognition until the last decade. Her set consisted of mostly covers, most of them ironically of British rock bands.

These bands were heavily influenced by the American r&b sound, with their early hits being covers of American r&b songs.   She pulled endless tragedy and emotion out of George Harrison’s “Isn’t it a Pity”, turned Ringo Starr’s “ It Don’t Come Easy” into a simmering swamp blues and also played a funked up cover of the Beatle’s “The Word”.

Her tour de force is her interpretation of the Who’s "Love Reign O’er Me”.   This anthemic song is turned into a song of personal tragedy, loss and redemption that can only be sung from experience.

Bettye closed the night with an acapella gospel tinged version of Sinead O’ Connor’s “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” leaving the audience spellbound.

The old styles of music can still move an audience.

Rudy Lu is a safety consultant by day , fine arts photographer nights and weekends and an occasional music critic. He has had a passion for jazz since his college days when he was a dj for WRUC (Radio Union College). He is a frequent contributor to as well as His work has been exhibited locally and has been featured by both nationally known and local musicians. He lives in Niskayuna, NY.