Michel Legrand

Michel Legrand

Michel Legrand is world class film composer, arranger and an occasional pianist. In an extraordinary career that began as early as the 1950s, Legrand has worked soundtracks for 200 film and television series, winning several acclaimed awards along the way. This prolific composer is of French descent, having been born on 24 February, 1932, in a small town near Paris, France. As far as his interest in the piano goes, Legrand’s primary realm of focus was Jazz, a genre in music he enjoyed from a very early age. Born to a musical family, the art concerning music composition came naturally to the maestro, and went well with the ingenuity that Legrand possessed. Legrand became a young piano virtuoso, mastering the skills of the instrument at a rather young age. His main instructor was Nadia Boulanger, a renowned personality of the time, having taught several other pianists such as Philip Glass and Aaron Copland. In a career spanning close to 6 decades, Legrand has been recognized as an influential figure, having left an indelible mark in the film industry as well as with his compilations as a solo Jazz performer.

Bearing in mind the tremendous successes that Legrand has achieved, it is not surprising that he has been awarded three Oscars, five Grammys and a number of other nominations in his career. The composing legend featured work in some of most important and popular films of the last six decades, that too with exquisite class and brilliance. In 1958, Legrand collaborated with several world-class Jazz musicians, such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans and Hank Jones on one of his most famous albums, called Legrand Jazz. He continued work with musical prodigies the following year, when the album Paris Jazz Piano came out, featuring some impressive tracks with bassist Guy Pedersen and percussionist Gus Wallez. In the mid-1960s, he recorded At Shelly’s Manne-Hole (1968), with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Shelly Manne. This album particularly demonstrated the true genius of Legrand, in that four of the tracks were compiled on the spot. All of this was pure improvisation, with no prior knowledge of how any one track could progress. One of his next big works was the album Jazz Le Grand (1979), worked on with Phil Woods who had been friends with Legrand for a very long time. One of latest works includes the re-done album, Michel Legrand by Michel Legrand (2002), a huge hit at the time.

Alongside his passion for jazz music, Legrand continued composing some phenomenal film scores. Some of his earliest works include those for director Jacques Demy, the most famous of these being soundtracks for the films The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and The Young Girls of Rochefort (1966). The former was revolutionary piece, in that most of the dialogue was arranged as song compositions. This made Legrand a world-renowned film composer, with him soon entering the Hollywood scene of the time with The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and Summer of ’42 (1971). These movies included some popular songs of the time, such as “The Windmills of Your Mind” and “The Summer Knows”. He continued his success with Never Say Never Again (1983) and The Pickle (1993), the latter working as a gateway for the eventual popularity of Madeline (1998). In his entire career, Legrand has worked with some of the world’s most popular directors such as Richard Brooks, Claude Lelouch, Clint Eastwood and Robert Altman.


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