Already established on the soul jazz scene of the 1960s, Les McCann became an international jazz superstar with the release of “Swiss Movement,” recorded at the 1968 Montreux Jazz Festival with the late Eddie Harris. The album generated a multi-million selling hit single, Compared To What, and placed McCann and Harris in the forefront of the jazz market. There was a lot more to Les McCann than that show in Switzerland,both before and after. As a musician, he moved comfortably from one jazz style to the next, demonstrating impressive chops from bop to fusion, from vocals to virtually any kind of keyboard he puts his hands to.
Born in 1935 in Lexington, Kentucky, Les is a self-taught musician. In the early fifties, he left the South and joined the Navy. While stationed in California, he took every opportunity to visit San Francisco's jazz clubs, where he first experienced Miles Davis and his music. His first major influence though, was pianist Erroll Garner, who shared the same exuberance and bursting vocalizations. After his discharge from the military, McCann moved to Los Angeles and formed a trio, Les McCann Ltd., which became a favorite on the Sun Strip in the late fifties.
Les McCann was recommended by Miles Davis to play with Cannonball Adderly, but turned it down in order to form his own band. In 1960, McCann was signed to the L.A.-based Pacific Jazz, where he became the label's top-selling artist, debuting with “Plays the Truth.” (1960) He also co-headed albums with label mates such as organist Richard Groove Holmes, saxman Ben Webster, The Jazz Crusaders and the Gerald Wilson Orchestra.