Rhythm has been pianist Les McCann's game for more than three decades--the grooving, infectious kind of rhythm that makes the feet tap and the body move.
If his opening set at Rum Runners restaurant in Seal Beach on Sunday night suggested that McCann has lost a bit of velocity in his high, hard fast-ball pieces, he more than made up for it with the funk-driven swing of his change-up patterns and an unerring eye for the rhythmic corner of the plate.
Situated before the piano like a large round Buddha, his impressive girth belying the darting quickness of his fingers, McCann wasted no time in establishing control of a noisy room, an out-of-tune piano and a recalcitrant sound system. Punching out brisk, sudden accents, moving easily from sound to silence and back again, opening unexpected windows for bass and drum to peer through, he quickly made clear his intention to be musical master of all he surveyed.
Once his rhythmic dominance was achieved via a few crisp instrumentals, McCann moved to the vocal material that has dominated his recent work. Starting with a surprisingly sweet love ballad, he then made a sharp left turn into the twisting swing and double-entendre message of a blues titled "Ride, Ride, Ride."