Jazz pianist, ‘In comparison with What’ singer Les McCann dies at 88

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Jazz pianist and singer Les McCann, greatest recognized for his raucous dwell single “In comparison with What” from the 1969 Montreux Jazz Competition and later sampled closely by hip-hop artists, died Friday at a Los Angeles-area hospital, in keeping with his longtime supervisor and producer Alan Abrahams.

McCann, 88, had been dwelling in a Van Nuys nursing facility and was hospitalized with pneumonia, mentioned Abrahams, who declined to establish the hospital. McCann had been a longtime Van Nuys resident, Abrahams mentioned.

“He was one of the influential pianists and singers of all time,” mentioned Abrahams, who referred to as McCann an architect of soul jazz. “When he performed dwell, everywhere in the world, individuals could be enthralled, as a result of he by no means performed it protected. He at all times took it to the sting and succeeded at it and took the viewers with him. For youthful individuals, they’re not making any extra Les McCanns.”

McCann’s music has been sampled by Infamous B.I.G., Pete Rock and C.L. Easy, Warren G., Slick Rick, Dr. Dre, Mobb Deep, A Tribe Known as Quest, De La Soul and Naughty by Nature, in keeping with his web site.

McCann relished his function as a dwell performer. “Nicely, some musicians solely wish to do it with the music,” McCann informed The Instances in 1992. “I prefer to be humorous. I prefer to mess with individuals, shake ‘em up slightly bit. So I do outrageous issues generally. I do know who I’m, and individuals who know me want I might do extra outrageous issues — like I do at dwelling. They are saying, ‘What’s mistaken with you? You’re so conservative on the bandstand.’

“That’s all I want, to enter my routine. My routine is love, and that’s what I’m. I’m a channel of affection. I settle for my function.”

Les McCann performs onstage during the opening of the 40th Montreux Jazz Festival

McCann in the course of the opening of the fortieth Montreux Jazz Competition in 2006.

(Martial Trezzini / Keystone through AP)

Les McCann was born Sept. 23, 1935, in Lexington, Ky., Abrahams mentioned. A largely self-taught musician, McCann joined the Navy within the Nineteen Fifties and was stationed in California, the place he patronized San Francisco’s jazz golf equipment, encountered trumpeter Miles Davis’ music and was strongly influenced by pianist Erroll Garner, in keeping with his biography from the Kentucky Music Corridor of Fame. In 1956, he received a Navy expertise contest as a singer and appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Present,” in keeping with the 2007 ebook “The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz.”

He moved to Los Angeles after being discharged, the place he shaped the Les McCann Ltd. trio and was signed by the L.A.-based Pacific Jazz label.

A prolific performer and collaborator, it was McCann’s look on the 1969 Montreux Jazz Competition in Switzerland with saxophonist Eddie Harris, and the following dwell album “Swiss Motion,” that secured McCann’s worldwide notoriety and his place within the jazz canon. Within the hit single “In comparison with What,” a rollicking protest anthem towards President Nixon and the Vietnam Conflict, McCann sings, “The President, he’s received his struggle / Of us don’t know simply what it’s for / No person provides us rhyme or motive / Have one doubt, they name it treason.”

The album was a crossover hit. “The witty, laid-back social commentary McCann delivered on the album’s signature tune, ‘In comparison with What,’ appealed to each middle-age ex-beatniks and their rock-loving, hippie-era offspring,” The Instances recounted in 1992, as “Swiss Motion” remained a gentle vendor.

One among McCann’s different main contributions to music occurred offstage, at a Washington, D.C., nightclub, the place he found up-and-coming singer Roberta Flack and launched her to his producer.

McCann, who recorded dozens of different albums and pioneered using digital keyboards in jazz, additionally explored artistic varieties past music.

“I might like to have a complete lot of cash. Who wouldn’t? However I like what I do. I like the opposite issues I do. I play tennis, paint. A brand new factor I’m simply beginning is making large prints of pictures I’ve taken of jazz musicians,” McCann informed The Instances in 1992. “I’ve learn quite a bit, studied all of the religions … My guru is me, the one one I do know I can totally belief to be sincere with me is me. I like myself past all others, and by doing that, I can love everybody else. I see myself as a channel of affection.”

In 1995, McCann was slowed by a stroke whereas in tour in Zelle, Germany, that left him partially paralyzed, although he was capable of proceed performing afterward, focusing extra on vocals.

“He was daring and a pioneer on so many ranges,” Abrahams mentioned, noting that the sampling of McCann’s music had prolonged his affect throughout generations. “The rap and hip-hop artists all knew, as a result of they might do the deep dive into their mother and father’ LP bins.”

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