Night Music: Les McCann and Eddie Harris, “Compared to What”

Another song that is a question, this one without the question mark. That Tower of Power track, What is Hip, reminded me of this, but Compared to What predates it by at least a few years.

McCann and Harris are a more trad jazz ensemble, and I first heard their version of the song driving around Long Island with my buddy Peter. I had heard lots of 40s jazz at home growing up, but this was my introduction to something wilder and more interesting. It sounded angry and beautiful, too, and is one of the reasons I listened to a lot more jazz in my life.

It turns out that the song was written by Eugene McDaniels, and first recorded by Roberta Flack. Her version, on her first album, is more traditional, focused more on the words of the message than McCann and Harris’s version, which delights and twists the knife on the refrain, and pumps up the music. Theirs is greatness, but Flack illustrates where the song started.

One thought on “Night Music: Les McCann and Eddie Harris, “Compared to What”

  1. “Swiss Movement” is among my faves, and produced at a time when music was all over the place interesting. I love “Compared to What.” Just a great choice. Got to see McCann and Harris, too. lucky guy, i am.

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