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Album Review

Composer/pianist Michel Legrand worked with such musical luminaries as Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, and Dusty Springfield, is responsible for some of the most memorable film themes of the 20th century, and is easily mentioned alongside his contemporaries Henry Mancini, Andre Previn, Gil Evans, and Burt Bacharach. Amazingly though, he has never before recorded a solo piano album of his own songs. At 69 years old, Legrand finally delivers Michel Legrand By Michel Legrand, in which he covers some of his best material. While Legrand is a technically adroit musician and displays an Art Tatum-like inventiveness in his piano style, he really isn't so much a jazz pianist as a jazz impressionist, utilizing expanded harmonics and scale flourishes to re-conceptualize his songs into solo pieces. Hearing these instantly recognizable melodies performed in such an intimate way by the composer allows the listener to perhaps gain some insight into how Legrand might have originally conceived his arrangements. Legrand's songs have always contained the rhythms and harmonic nuances of jazz, but as they were recorded with strings or big bands for large movie soundtracks, some of the initial jazz influences may have become secondary. Here, they are rendered beautifully raw. One of the most successful reinterpretations is the soft ballad "How Do You Keep the Music Playing" (from Best Friends), which Legrand treats as a soulful, Herbie Hancock-style ballad. Similarly, the opening track, "I Will Wait for You" (from Les Parapluies de Cherbourg), begins with Legrand's starkly gorgeous melody line played by itself and builds to a swinging middle section that is pure Bill Evans. Just as successful is "The Windmills of Your Mind" (from The Thomas Crown Affair), featuring a klezmer-influenced melody that Legrand accents with swirling, McCoy Tyner-ish piano scales and then develops into a straight-ahead jazz ballad and later a ferocious gypsy-swing number.


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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Michel Legrand Plays Michel Legrand, Michel Legrand
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