The legendary composer Michel Legrand dies at the age of 86 | Culture

The legendary composer Michel Legrand dies at the age of 86 | Culture

Michel Legrand, Composer and arranger, he died last night in his native Paris, aged 86. Although he succeeded in making film music, he developed a parallel career as director of symphonic orchestras. And he never forgot his youthful passion for jazz, which united him Miles Davis, the last time in the australian movie Dingo (1992), co-starring also by the trumpeter. They stayed in Los Angeles but, typically, Miles delayed the moment of truth -they were supposed to be composing by hand- and Legrand ended up writing only the soundtrack, to which Davis would later put the icing on his trumpet.

Born into a musical family, Legrand was a brilliant student at the Paris Conservatoire. Among his preceptors he was Nadia Boulanger, that reaffirmed him in his intuition that all music could coexist. He was a twentysomething who alternated the arrangements for Jacques Brel or Maurice Chevalier with the commissions of the French cinema, accepting even devilish works: Lola (1961) was shot with Anouk Aimée doing as if singing, about nonexistent music. The subsequent synchronization was impossible, although Legrand did what he could.

It was the beginning of his fruitful relationship with the director Jacques Demy, the first part of a trilogy that would be completed with The umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), where the songs replaced the dialogues, and The ladies of Rochefort (1967). They would collaborate in later films, like Ass skin (1970), with Catherine Deneuve and a historical success. Legrand benefited from the creative freedom and global visibility of the Nouvelle vague.

Hollywood tempted him immediately and The Thomas Crown case (1968) would allow him to win his first Oscar with The windmills of your mind (horrifying title, it is true, but with a melody of goldsmiths). I would win the statuette again, already in the category of best soundtrack, with Summer of 42 (1972), by Robert Mulligan, and Yentl (1983), by Barbra Streisand. It would also serve Joseph Losey (The messenger, 1971), Richard Lester (The Three Musketeers, 1973), Orson Welles (F is for fake, 1973), Louis Malle (Atlantic City, 1979) or Robert Altman (Ready-to-wear, 1994). In total, he signed some 200 soundtracks, under the maxim that a great melody illuminates even the most vulgar movie. An inheritance, he claimed, from his childhood: alone at home, he tried to decipher the construction of the chansons that they sounded on the radio. Among his latest works is the score for On the other side of the wind (2018), the recovery by Netflix of the unfinished film of Welles. And among the most popular, the music of the television series of drawings Once upon a time the man, and its continuations.

Jazz was another dazzle. Paris was a must stop for the figures of bebop; in 1948, Legrand was knocked out by the big band by Dizzy Gillespie. In 1958, after having checked in I love Paris, a topical album of Parisian ambience that sold large quantities, Columbia Records agreed to produce a collection of standards of jazz with its arrangements. In New York, the visitor discovered that his idols charged the same rate as any studio instrumentalist and decided to summon the cream of the cream.

Legrand jazz it contained a who's who of jazz: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ben Webster, Bill Evans, Art Farmer, Phil Woods, Donald Byrd, Teo Macero etc. Everyone was delighted with their scores, despite some social skids. Quincy Jones told him: on the way to a recording session of Sarah Vaughan with Count Basie, La Divina lit a joint and handed it to Legrand; Disgusted at that sucked and misshapen cigarette, he threw it out the window. Vaughan's anger was enormous: it had to be made clear to the Frenchman that the offer was a gesture of acceptance.

Already in the 21st century, with his inexhaustible curiosity, he ventured into the musical theater and risked composing concertos for piano or cello in the symphonic language, which he recorded for the classical branch of Sony. When he needed a crowd bath, he offered tours of his film music, shows in which he played the piano and even dared to sing. It revealed some of its secrets: "What I narrated with music had to be at least as interesting as what was happening on the screen".


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