Still trying to recover from the effects of a devastating 1995 stroke, Les McCann relaxed and put out a playful jazz/funk album with a cast of dozens that in some ways harkens back to some of his Atlantic sides from the 1970s. Unlike his other post-stroke albums, he doesn't play any keyboards here, leaving them in the hands of Ricky Peterson, with an emphasis on the Hammond B3. Rather, McCann is content just to sing and rap – again, a throwback and fallback to records made a quarter-century before. At 66, McCann sounds considerably different – older and a little shakier on the ballads, but still sly and willing. The grooves are OK in a minimally updated '70s funk manner, but the material, coming from a variety of sources, is rather ordinary as a whole.
In an age of artistic conformity, Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745) had a refreshingly individual voice. In his own time he was described as 'a reserved, bigoted Catholic, but also a respectable, quiet, unassuming man, deserving of the greatest respect'. His music earned Bach's respect for its serious contrapuntal procedures; today's listeners, though, are more immediately charmed by Zelenka's quirky turns of phrase and flashes of original genius. There are plenty of these in the Passion oratorio Gesù al Calvario (1735), one of the composer's three late oratorios. This is an essentially contemplative oratorio. All the 'action' is concentrated into a single scene in which the three Marys and St John are waiting on the Mount of Calvary for Jesus after he has been sentenced to death. The crucifixion itself is not depicted, just the emotional reactions to it.
One of the architects of bebop in the 1940s, Max Roach continued to lead innovative and exemplary jazz groups into the 21st century. He cut his first discs with Coleman Hawkins in 1943, and soon afterwards worked with Dizzy Gillespie both on 52nd Street and on record.