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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Legrand Jazz

Arthaus Musik 101 547 DVD



1. Fast Food
2. Little Boy Lost
3. Stop c'est du Bop
4. Dingo Lament
5. Ray Blues
6. Family Fugue
7. Dingo Rock
8. Between Yesterday and Tomorrow
9. Nobody Knows
10. The Summer Knows
11. The Windmills of Your Mind
12. Le Petit Journal
13. What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?
14. I Will Wait for You

Michel Legrand - Piano, vocals
Noel Langley, Craig Wild, Martin Shaw, Mark Armstrong - Trumpets
Liam Kirkman, Ashley Horton, Pat Hartley - Trombones
Sarah Williams - Bass trombone
Andy Mackintosh - Alto sax, flute
Alan Barnes - Alto sax, flute, clarinet
Michael Coates - Tenor sax, flute, clarinet
Jimmy Hastings - Tenor sax, flute, clarinet
Paul Nathaniel - Baritone sax, bass clarinet
Mark Fletcher - Percussion
Roy Babbington - Bass
Sylvain Luc - Guitar (tracks 5-7)
Alison Moyet - Vocals (tracks 8-11)


This is not the first disc that has been called Legrand Jazz. In 1958, Michel recorded an album of that title with such choice American musicians as Bill Evans, Ben Webster, Phil Woods and Milt Hinton. That recording established Legrand's jazz credentials, which he firmed up with his later albums such as Live at Jimmy's (which I am still waiting to be released on CD). He himself says "Jazz, to me, is like a physical makeover. My real pastime".

Of course, Legrand is best known as the composer of many magnificent songs, some of which are included in this concert, which took place at the Salle Pleyel in 2009 to celebrate Michel's 77th birthday. There are no signs of ageing in Legrand's piano-playing: indeed, it seems to become ever more animated as the concert continues. He is backed by the London Big Band Orchestra, which seems to be an asssemblage of some of Britain's top musicians. The trouble with being a pianist in a big band is that you are often inaudible but happily the ensemble quite often takes a breather when Legrand is featured at the piano with backing from dependable bassist Roy Babbington and resplendent drummer Mark Fletcher.

The DVD opens with a vigorous up-tempo Fast Food, which lets Michel display his remarkable dexterity at the keyboard. After the gentler Little Boy Lost, Stop c'est du Bop is exactly what it says on the tin: a rousing workout incorporating several breaks for the brass and woodwind to play without the rhythm section, thus heightening the tension. Alan Barnes gives a typically brilliant alto solo.

Trumpeter Martin Shaw is featured in Dingo's Lament, a sad tune that Michel wrote for the film Dingo. Guitarist Sylvain Luc comes on stage for Ray Blues, where the highlight consists of Luc's musical duelling with Legrand. Family Fugue starts with Michel and Sylvain duetting in Bach-like mode before launching into a tear-'em-up bout of fast, scintillating rhythm. Dingo Rock is even more impressive: a groovy jazz-rock piece which turns into an eleven-minute-plus marathon, including sparkling contributions from piano and guitar. Mark Fletcher's muscular drumming is a reminder of how much physical stamina is involved in being a modern drummer.

The next guest is vocalist Alison Moyet, whose singing is occasionally in danger of being drowned by the band. Alison sings beautifully, although her vocal items are a slight anti-climax after the excitement of what preceded them, and Legrand even joins in with her singing The Windmills of Your Mind. His quavery voice suggests that he is a less accomplished vocalist than pianist.

Le Petit Journal has a somewhat unsteady trumpet solo from Mark Armstrong and a more coherent one from Alan Barnes. Michel's vocal on What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? is balanced by his glittering piano solo. And he saves the best till last: I Will Wait for You, the unforgettable theme from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which is a delight from start to finish. Legrand keeps changing tempos, keys and styles: from ballad to up-tempo, then jazz waltz, bossa, vaudeville quickstep, tango and Jewish wedding dance. Understandably it brings the house down. It is fun just watching the bassist and drummer looking expectantly to see where Michel will go next. It is a tour de force, although I've heard him do something similar before - on that Live at Jimmy's LP. As a brief encore, Michel sings the song touchingly in French.

With more than an hour-and-a-half of music, I would recommend this DVD without reservation - but there is one reservation. The viewer is never allowed to concentrate attention on any one performer because the film jumps from one shot to another with hardly a break. There appear to be six camera operators and their work is shown in extremely brief snippets. This sort of St Vitus' Dance is becoming all too common in DVDs (and, indeed, in TV and video generally) but it's an unwelcome disease.

Tony Augarde

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