Q&A: Les McCann
From the first time I heard the song “Compared To What,” I fell in love with the piano playing and singing of Les McCann. His bold, soulful and groovy style just feels good. Whether he is playing the keyboards or singing, Les always delivers a creative musical expression guaranteed to get your fingers snappin’, foot tappin’ and your booty shakin’.
Do you remember when you first discovered jazz?
I first discovered jazz when I was in the Navy and heard Erroll Garner’s “Lullaby Of Birdland.” It wasn’t long after, I heard his album Concerts By The Sea and began to really understand the joy of jazz. When I was growing up in Kentucky though, I was always around gospel music because of the church we went to. And then on the radio, we would listen to country music and R&B, artists like Louis Jordan, Wynonie Harris, Amos Millburn and Ivory Joe Hunter.
What was the first record you ever purchased?
I can’t remember for sure the first album I ever purchased, but I know Miles Davis’ Walkin’ was right up there. I can still remember the cover, it had a photo of a traffic light. Orange Color Sky by Nat King Cole with Stan Kenton was another one of the first records I bought. It wasn’t until I joined the Navy that I could afford to start buying records. Stationed in San Francisco, I was also becoming exposed to a whole new world of music.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
I’m fully inspired by life. There’s not a moment when I’m not aware of my ability to be creative on some level. I don’t look at creativity as something separate from day to day existence. They are one in the same.
What is your favorite escape?
Man, that’s a funny question! I would say painting is an escape. I paint a whole lot. I have a studio where I show my work and sell it. Silence is another escape.
What does jazz put you in the mood for?
Jazz doesn’t really put me in the mood for anything in particular. It does remind me that I can still tap my feet – you know that they’re still working. When I’m playing jazz I’m on top of my groove. Right now, most mothaphuckers ain’t playin’ shit, by that I mean a lack of feeling.
You have recorded and performed with the world’s greatest jazz musicians. Which musician made the greatest impression on you and why?
Me. I made the greatest impression on me.
If you were not a musician what would you be?
I’d like to be God for a week and have a cell phone, but other than that maybe a teacher. I’m always doin’ things. If I couldn’t play music anymore, I’d just say what do I want to do next and have a good time doin’ it. That’s why I’m not the greatest piano player out there. I never sat around and practiced, I just went out playin’ and singing, havin’ a good time from the beginning.
Official Les McCann website