Thursday, February 11, 2010

Les McCann & Eddie Harris - Compared To What

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 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.

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