Les McCann  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Les McCann (born September 23, 1935, Lexington, Kentucky) is a soul jazz piano player and vocalist whose biggest successes came as a crossover artist into R&B and soul.

In 1969, Atlantic Records released Swiss Movement, a recording of McCann with regular collaborator and saxophonist Eddie Harris and guest trumpeter Benny Bailey at that year's Montreux Jazz Festival. The album contained the song "Compared To What," and both the album and the single were huge Billboard pop chart successes. "Compared To What" featured political criticism of the Vietnam War:

The President, he's got his war,
Folks don't know just what it's for.
Nobody gives us rhyme or reason,
Have one doubt, they call it treason.

The song was not actually written by McCann; fellow Atlantic composer/artist Eugene McDaniels (A Hundred Pounds of Clay) wrote it years earlier. "Compared To What" was initially recorded and released by soul vocalist Roberta Flack. Her version appeared as the opening track on her debut recording, First Take (1969).

After the success of Swiss Movement, McCann — primarily a piano player — began to emphasize his rough-hewn vocals more. He became an innovator in the soul jazz style, merging jazz with funk, soul and world rhythms; much of his early 1970s music prefigures the great Stevie Wonder albums of the decade. He was among the first jazz musicians to include electric piano, clavinet, and synthesizer in his music.

In 1971, he and Harris were part of a group of soul, R&B, and rock performers — including Wilson Pickett, The Staple Singers, Santana, and Ike & Tina Turner — who flew to Accra, Ghana for a historic 14-hour concert before more than 100,000 Ghanaians. The March 6 concert was recorded for the documentary film Soul To Soul. In 2004 the movie was released on DVD with an accompanying soundtrack album.

A stroke in the mid 1990s sidelined McCann for a while, but in 2002 he released a new album, Pump it Up.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Les McCann" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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