Michel Legrand Day

February 24, 1932 – January 26, 2019

 

A tribute to the film composer and underrated jazz pianist

Composer, arranger and pianist Michel Legrand was born on February 24, 1932 in Courbevoir, France.

He studied music at the Conservatoire de Paris from age 11 and seemed poised to have a career in classical music but instead Legrand detoured into jazz and writing film scores.

His first recording project was writing string arrangements for a Dizzy Gillespie session in 1953; since his sister Christine Legrand sang with the Blue Stars, he wrote arrangements for the vocal group during 1954-56.

Legrand first recorded as a leader and pianist in 1957, leading a big band date and following it up in 1958 with the remarkable Legrand Jazz which was comprised of three all-star sessions (with such sidemen as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Phil Woods, Herbie Mann, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd and others) in new versions of jazz classics.

His first of several trio albums was 1959’s Legrand Piano but by then he was getting best known for his film scores.

In his career Legrand, who won three Academy Awards, wrote over 200 scores for film and television including for The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg (1964), The Young Girls Of Rochefort (1967), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Summer Of ‘42 (1971), Atlantic City (1980), and Yentl (1983).

Legrand’s best-known songs were “The Windmills Of Your Mind,” “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life,” “The Summer Knows,” “Summer Me, Winter Me,” “Brian’s Song,” “How Do You Keep The Music Playing,” and “Pieces Of Dreams,” and he wrote for albums led by Sarah Vaughan, Stan Getz, Bud Shank, Stephane Grappelli, and Arturo Sandoval in addition to occasionally teaming up in jazz groups with Phil Woods.

Here is Michel Legrand playing a rousing version of “Watch What Happens” on July 1, 2001 at the Montreal Jazz Festival in a quartet with Phil Woods.

Personnel:

Michel Legrand, piano
Phil Woods, alto
Eric Lagace, bass
Ray Brinker, drums

-Scott Yanow