Les McCann

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Les McCann
Les McCann.jpg
McCann in 1980
Background information
Birth nameLeslie Coleman McCann
Born (1935-09-23) September 23, 1935 (age 85)
Lexington, Kentucky, U.S.
Genres Jazz, soul jazz

Leslie Coleman McCann (born September 23, 1935) is an American jazz pianist and vocalist. [1]



McCann (left) with the Les McCann Trio (Herbie Lewis & Ron Jefferson), 1962 Les McCann Trio (1962).jpg
McCann (left) with the Les McCann Trio (Herbie Lewis & Ron Jefferson), 1962

Winning a Navy singing contest led to an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show . [1] McCann's main career began in the early 1960s when he recorded as a pianist with his trio for Pacific Jazz. [2] In 1969, Atlantic released Swiss Movement , album recorded with saxophonist Eddie Harris and trumpeter Benny Bailey at that year's Montreux Jazz Festival. [3] The album contained the song "Compared to What", and both the album and the single reached the Billboard pop charts. "Compared to What" criticized the Vietnam War. The song was written by Eugene McDaniels years earlier and recorded and released as a ballad by McCann in 1966 on his album Les McCann Plays the Hits. Roberta Flack's version appeared as the opening track on her debut album First Take (1969).

After the success of Swiss Movement, McCann, primarily a piano player, emphasized his vocals. He became an innovator in soul jazz, merging jazz with funk, soul, and world rhythms. 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 to perform a 14-hour concert for over 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.

McCann had a stroke in the mid-1990s, [2] but he returned to music in 2002 when Pump it Up was released. He has also exhibited his work as a painter and photographer. [1]

Les McCann was among hundreds of artists whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. [4]


As leader

As sideman

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  1. 1 2 3 Feather, Leonard & Gitler, Ira (2007) The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, p448. Oxford University Press.
  2. 1 2 Yanow, Scott. "Les McCann". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  3. Unterberger, Richie. "Swiss Movement". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  4. Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.