Michel Legrand

R.I.P Michel Legrand.

The legendary composer/arranger passed away early this morning at his Paris home. He was 86 years old and had lived a full musical life. Here’s an obituary that lists his many musical milestones.

I used the word “milestones” on purpose, because of Legrand’s deep friendship and musical partnership with Miles Davis. Here’s an interview where Legrand recalls their collaborations and speaks about Miles:

Michel Legrand interview

Here’s a YouTube video with side one of Legrand’s 1958 album “Legrand Jazz” which features Davis on trumpet.

If you’re interested, also check out Legrand’s wonderful recording “I Love Paris.” Here’s the title track:

Michel Legrand: I Love Paris

Perhaps my favorite story involving Michel Legrand is about when he was conducting a orchestral recording session for Barbra Streisand. Legrand had arranged a ballad for the large orchestra and after they played the arrangement once, Streisand took him aside and told him that she was recovering from a cold and couldn’t sing the song in the planned key. She suggested that they bring all the musicians back again the next day when her voice would be pitched a little higher. To her amazement, Michel replied that he had a quick solution to the problem. He simply stepped back up onto the conductor’s podium and calmly said to the musicians, “Let’s play it again, exactly as we just did it, but a half step lower. 1-2-3-4…”

And they played it perfectly, transposed down a half step! Michel knew that if he remained calm but didn’t give them a chance to worry about it, they could play it in the new key. As someone who has conducted full orchestras under the time and budgetary pressures of the recording studio, I can attest to the brilliance of Legrand’s insight in this situation!

Let’s continue to get to know Michel Legrand through his music. Songs like “I Will Wait For You,” “Watch What Happens,” and “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life” will remain staples of jazz instrumental and vocal performances for years to come.

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