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Michel Legrand: Great Movie Themes

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Album Review

Reynold da Silva's Silva Screen Records has been constructing a series of "essential" collections of major film composers' scores usually by making new recordings of portions of those scores or compiling recordings previously made for other projects, most often employing the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. For this Michel Legrand album, the label has actually enlisted Legrand as conductor of the Flemish Radio Orchestra (whose contributions are not noted until you examine the CD booklet), with a few additional jazz musicians, plus Legrand himself on piano and (during the extended suite from The Go-Between) harpsichord. Still, these are new recordings, made in December 2004, and should not be confused with actual soundtrack recordings. Legrand oversees excerpts from some of his most popular scores, leaning heavily on the major themes, such as "I Will Wait for You" from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, "Theme from Summer of '42," and "The Windmills of Your Mind" from The Thomas Crown Affair. These tracks tend to run from three to six minutes each, though the suite from The Three Musketeers passes eight minutes, and the album concludes with two suites each lasting about 14 minutes, a medley from Yentl and six "variations" from The Go-Between. Revisiting music dating back to the 1960s, Legrand provides interpretations that do not quite re-create the soundtracks, leaning more toward easy listening versions, but without going too far. Still, a compilation of the original versions (with, for example, Miles Davis actually playing on "Dingo" instead of being imitated by Claude Egea) would be preferable.

Biography

Born: 24 February 1932 in Paris, France

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Michel Legrand has made his fame and fortune from writing for films, but he has done significant work in jazz on an occasional basis. In 1957, he arranged a set of Dixieland and swing standards for a French orchestra (recorded on Philips), in 1958 he used three different all-star groups for the classic Legrand Jazz (with such sidemen as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Phil Woods, Herbie Mann, Bill Evans, Ben Webster, Art Farmer, and others), in 1968 he recorded a strictly jazz set with a trio and Legrand...
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