10 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

Four years after Swiss Movement made stars out of Les McCann and Eddie Harris, McCann returned to the Montreux Jazz Festival for a performance that showed the evolution of the times, and his personal growth as a musician. Live At Montreux shows McCann in his leanest form, fronting a band with no horns and no guitars — only the bone-solid rhythms of drummer Donald Dean, bassist Jimmy Rowser and percussionist Buck Clarke. It is testament McCann’s magic touch that even in this bare-bones arrangement his songs sound warm and lush. Much of this is to do with his special relationship with the Fender Rhodes keyboard. This man was made for this instrument. Where other players from the era made the Rhodes a signifier of stoned atmospherics, McCann gives it all the soul of a congregational organ (with some stoned atmospherics thrown in for good measure, of course). Producer Joel Dorn made sure all of McCann’s albums from this era had a deep, naturalistic sound, but in this live setting the keyboardist and his band are even more at ease, yet tighter.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Four years after Swiss Movement made stars out of Les McCann and Eddie Harris, McCann returned to the Montreux Jazz Festival for a performance that showed the evolution of the times, and his personal growth as a musician. Live At Montreux shows McCann in his leanest form, fronting a band with no horns and no guitars — only the bone-solid rhythms of drummer Donald Dean, bassist Jimmy Rowser and percussionist Buck Clarke. It is testament McCann’s magic touch that even in this bare-bones arrangement his songs sound warm and lush. Much of this is to do with his special relationship with the Fender Rhodes keyboard. This man was made for this instrument. Where other players from the era made the Rhodes a signifier of stoned atmospherics, McCann gives it all the soul of a congregational organ (with some stoned atmospherics thrown in for good measure, of course). Producer Joel Dorn made sure all of McCann’s albums from this era had a deep, naturalistic sound, but in this live setting the keyboardist and his band are even more at ease, yet tighter.

TITLE TIME
6:42
8:39
5:01
1:26
6:29
11:21
9:38
9:36
14:35
4:56

About Les McCann

Les McCann reached the peak of his career at the 1969 Montreux Jazz Festival, recording "Compared to What" and "Cold Duck Time" for Atlantic (Swiss Movement) with Eddie Harris and Benny Bailey. Although he has done some worthwhile work since then, much of it has been anticlimactic.

McCann first gained some fame in 1956 when he won a talent contest in the Navy as a singer that resulted in an appearance on television on The Ed Sullivan Show. After being discharged, he formed a trio in Los Angeles. McCann turned down an invitation to join the Cannonball Adderley Quintet so he could work on his own music. He signed a contract with Pacific Jazz and in 1960 gained some fame with his albums Les McCann Plays the Truth and The Shout. His soulful, funk style on piano was influential and McCann's singing was largely secondary until the mid-'60s. He recorded many albums for Pacific Jazz during 1960-1964, mostly with his trio but also featuring Ben Webster, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Blue Mitchell, Stanley Turrentine, Joe Pass, the Jazz Crusaders, and the Gerald Wilson Orchestra.

McCann switched to Limelight during 1965-1967 and then signed with Atlantic in 1968. After the success of Swiss Movement, McCann emphasized his singing at the expense of his playing and he began to utilize electric keyboards, notably on 1972's Layers. His recordings became less interesting to traditional jazz fans from that point on, and after his Atlantic contract ran out in 1976, McCann appeared on records much less often. However, he stayed popular and a 1994 reunion tour with Eddie Harris was quite successful. A mid-'90s stroke put him out of action for a time and weakened his keyboard playing (his band began carrying an additional keyboardist) but Les McCann returned to a more active schedule during 1996 and was still a powerful singer. His comeback was solidified by 2002's Pump It Up, a guest-heavy celebration of funk and jazz released on ESC Records. ~ Scott Yanow

  • ORIGIN
    Lexington, KY
  • GENRE
    Jazz
  • BORN
    Sep 23, 1935

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