posted by Robert J. Carmack
Los Angeles,Calf._Soul Jazz singer and pianist Les McCann is on tap to be honored by the Living Legends Foundation,Inc.
The event is scheduled for Thursday, August 22 at 6:PM . McCann is being acknowledged for his large body of work that spans five decades. the festivities are being held at the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center. Mr. McCann, along with two other musicians, saxophonist/educator Daniel Jackson and saxophonist, Bobby “Hurricane” Spencer. The awards presentation is part of a series entitled, Living Legends Jazzabration. the organization’s mission is unique in the fact that they select and honor Living Jazz & Blues Legends;celebrating their contributions while they’re alive and can appreciate the recognition .For reservations and more information, call Linda Morgan 562-762-6441, or go to their site
Leslie Coleman “Les” McCann (born September 23, 1935, Lexington,Kentucky. Les McCann is a Soul Jazz pianist/vocalist whose greatest success came as a crossover artist of R&B and Soul. McCann’s humble beginnings began in the military when he won a Navy talent contest for singing,which led to an appearance on the Ed Sullivan. Les landed a contract with Pacific Jazz label in the early 1960s, where he produced a series of Jazz trio and compilation records with other label mates.
By 1969, now with Atlantic Records, He released Swiss Movement, a recording by McCann with frequent collaborator, saxophonist , Eddie Harris and guest trumpeter Benny Bailey at that year’s Montreux Jazz Festival. that 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 written by McCann, but a fellow Atlantic composer/artist, Gene McDaniels had written 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 rather “gruff” vocals more.
He was considered an innovator in the Soul Jazz style, 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 for a historic 14-hour concert before more than 100,000 Ghanaians. The concert was recorded for the documentary film Soul To Soul. In 2004 the movie was released on DVD with an accompanying soundtrack album.
Les McCann discovered Roberta Flack and obtained an audition which resulted in a recording contract with Atlantic Records.
A mild stroke in the mid-1990s sidelined McCann for a while, but, in 2002 he released a new album, Pump it Up. McCann has also exhibited as a professional painter and photographer. These days Mr. McCann is quite busy doing what he was born to do..performing and planting smiles on the faces of his audiences all over the world. Well done Mr. McCann, You deserve it.
In 1967, at the world-famous Lighthouse Jazz Club, three teen-aged musicians attended a Les McCann Trio concert, and went backstage afterwards. they were met by a gregarious, fun-loving guy, who was very generous with his time by answering questions and just offering some encouraging words ..One of those teenagers was myself, Robert J. Carmack.