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2011-04-04

7:30PM

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Michel Legrand Trio

Featuring: Michel Legrand, piano
Francois Moutin, bass
Lewis Nash, drums

It is difficult to pin the multi-talented Michel Legrand down into one single category. This amazingly versatile French singer, songwriter, composer, arranger, conductor and producer has enjoyed a whirlwind career, excelling in an impressively broad range of domains from film soundtracks and French 'chanson' to jazz and classical music. An international star, who has won as much respect in the States as he has in Europe, Legrand is an insatiable musician whose creativity and ambition appear to know no bounds.

Michel Legrand was born in Bécon-les-Bruyères, in the Paris suburbs, on 24 February 1932. Michel eventually went on to train at the Paris Conservatoire in 1942. He spent seven years there, studying under renowned teachers such as Nadia Boulanger, Henri Challan, Noël Gallon and Lucette Descaves. The young prodigy went on to win numerous awards for his skills in counterpoint, piano, fugue and 'solfège' (an award he received on 6 June 1944).

In the immediate post-war years, Michel Legrand discovered a new passion: jazz. The moment that triggered off this musical conversion was when he attended a concert by Dizzy Gillespie “ and left, totally blown away by what he had seen!

In 1954, Legrand stepped from the accompanying shadows centre stage when the American record label Columbia-EMI commissioned him to make an album of English adaptations of French classics. The album “I Love Paris” went on to sell a staggering 8 million copies, turning Legrand into an overnight star both at home and abroad.

In 1958, Legrand headed back across the Atlantic to the States and spent valuable time in New York, directing studio sessions where he mixed with the crème de la crème of the jazz world, working with the likes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans and Ben Webster. The album “Legrand Jazz” was a result of this white-hot jazz period.

In 1968, Legrand sat down and wrote the soundtrack to Norman Jewison's swinging 60s film “The Thomas Crown Affair.” The theme tune from the movie, “The Windmills Of Your Mind”, (”Les Moulins de mon c”ur”) which featured French lyrics by Eddy Marnay and English lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman went on to become a huge hit. In fact, Legrand ended up scooping the Oscar for Best Film Theme Song in 1969.

Needless to say, Michel Legrand went on to become a major star in the U.S. Legrand, who was nominated for a Grammy Award no less than 27 times, carried off the prestigious prize five times between 1971 and 1975.

America at that time also meant jazz, of course. And, jazz being one of Legrand's greatest passions in life, he went on to perform several concerts with Ray Brown in 1968 in the famous L.A. club, Shelly's Manne-Hole. The album, “Verve”, was produced as a result of this.

In 1983, his theme tune to Barbra Streisand’s movie “Yentl” won him yet another Oscar. Later that same year, Legrand wrote the score for “Never Say Never Again” (the last James Bond film starring Sean Connery). Meanwhile, he also extended his work to the theatre, writing the music for Jean-Louis Barrault’s play “Jarry sur la butte” (1970) and “Monte Cristo” in 1975.

In the 80s, Legrand chose to devote his time and energy to jazz, forming a trio with drummer André Ceccarelli and double-bass virtuoso Marc-Michel Le Bévillon.

Following his work as part of a jazz trio, Legrand changed musical format in the 90s, creating a big band which he took on several international tours in subsequent years, accompanying Ray Charles, Diana Ross and Icelandic pop diva Björk.

In June 2005, Legrand returned to the studio. This time round, it was not to compose his own work, however, but to pay tribute to his late friend and music colleague, the Toulousan singer Claude Nougaro (who died in 2004). The album “Legrand Nougaro” also included reworkings of Nougaro classics such as “Don Juan”, “Le Cinéma” and “Le Rouge et le Noir.”

Now 78 years old, Legrand continues to perform, compose, and tour at the highest level in a multitude of formats, showing no signs of slowing down.