Les McCann, the American jazz pianist and singer whose music went on to reach a new audience when it was sampled by numerous hip-hop artists, has died at the age of 88.
Largely self-taught, McCann rose to prominence in the 1960s when he performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival with saxophonist Eddie Harris and trumpeter Benny Bailey. A recording of their set was turned into a live album, Swiss Movement, which became a crossover hit.
The record was notable for the inclusion of McCann’s cover of Compared To What, a protest song against the Vietnam War, which was later sampled by Cypress Hill on their 1991 track, Break It Up.
Other hip-hop artists to have sampled McCann’s work include Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre, Nas, J Dilla, Eric B & Rakim, De La Soul and Notorious B.I.G.
Following the success of Swiss Movement, McCann became known as much as a singer as a pianist, but will also be remembered for being one of the first jazz musicians to embrace the use of synthesizers, notably on his 1972 album, Layers. The opening track of the record, Sometimes I Cry, would later be sampled by Massive Attack on their 1998 hit, Teardrop.
McCann suffered a stroke in the ‘90s but returned to music in 2002 with a new album, Pump It Up. It’s reported that he died from pneumonia in Los Angeles on 29 December.