Monday 28th January 2013
- Wednesday 30th January 2013
£35.00 - £50.00
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.
Legrand had long been familiar with the French 'chanson' world, having accompanied some of its biggest stars when he was a young 20-year-old just starting out in the business. He had also put in several years at the Philips label, orchestrating countless songs for the big names of the day. When Legrand met the famous Toulousan singer Claude Nougaro in 1962, the two men hit it off immediately thanks to their shared passion for jazz. The pair even went on to write a number of Nougaro classics together including “Les Dom Juan” and “Le Cinéma.” Legrand also went on to compose and arrange material for Serge Reggiani in 1970 and he worked with Yves Montand, too, composing hits such as “Coucher avec elle.” Meanwhile, Legrand's songs were covered by a number of international stars from Liza Minnelli to Greek diva Nana Mouskouri.
Or music in the plural
By Stéphane Lerouge
“Ever since I was a boy, my ambition has been to live completely surrounded by music. My dream is not to miss out anything. That’s why I’ve never settled on one musical discipline. I love playing, conducting, singing and writing, and in all styles. So I turn my hand to everything – not just a bit of everything. Quite the opposite. I do all these activities at once, seriously, sincerely and with deep commitment.”
This is how Michel Legrand describes his status as an atypical, compulsive musician who cannot be pigeonholed; or rather, his many statuses as a composer, conductor, pianist, singer, writer and producer. Tearing down the barriers between jazz, classical music and easy listening, he is at home in any musical situation. Born in 1932, Michel Legrand came from a family with a musical tradition represented by his father, Raymond Legrand and his uncle Jacques Hélian. When he was ten, he entered the Paris Conservatory, which proved to be an unexpected revelation. “Until then, my childhood had been flat and unhappy,“ he relates. “ My life revolved around an old piano and I was very bored. I was very lonely. Suddenly, when I joined Lucette Descaves’ music theory class, I discovered a world that belonged to me, people who spoke my language. From then on, I felt that life had something exciting and motivating to offer”
After studying under the iron rule of Nadia Boulanger, Henri Challan and Noël Gallon for several years, Legrand left the Conservatory with top honors in harmony, piano, fugue and counterpoint. He immediately gravitated to the world of song, working as an accompanist musical director to Maurice Chevalier. He traveled with the famous French singer on his international tours. This gave him the opportunity to visit the United Sates for the first time. His instrumental LP, I Love Paris, did extremely well in that country, topping the US album charts in 1954. His first hit record also had great symbolic significance, revealing his international potential: the talented 22 year old did not look back and continued to go from strength to strength in France and abroad.
In the 1950s, Michel Legrand also started composing for some of the artists he was accompanying. His first great song La Valse des Lilas, displayed an individual style of melodic writing which soon became his hallmark. “ I put a great deal of faith in melody”, he admits. “Nadia Boulanger always said: “ Put whatever you want above and below the melody but, whatever happens, it’s the melody that counts.’ For example, modern music tends to bore me now. It does of course contain innovative rhythmic and contrapuntal devices but, without melody, its lifeblood, it is lifeless and this helps to dehumanize it. For my part, melody is a mistress to whom I’ ll always be faithful.”
In 1955, Michel Legrand turned his hand to another mode of expression when he wrote the film score Les Amants du Tage by Henri Verneuil. Four years later, with the advent of the French New Wave, he became one of the architects of the revival of French cinema. He began collaborating with Jean-Luc Godard, Agnès Varda, François Reichenbach and, of course, Jacques Demy, his creative alter ego, with whom he invented a new genre of film musical. As well as being awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes festival and the Prix Louis Delluc, The
Umbrellas of Cherbourg achieved massive world-wide success – despite the pessimistic predictions of many industry professionals. “Jacques and I had to work really hard to get this project off the ground,” remembers Legrand, “The producers showed us the door saying: “You’re a couple of nice young guys, but do you really think that people will spend an hour-and-a-half listening to characters singing life’s little platitudes!” They were afraid to finance a film that substituted singing for dialogue and that had a realist slant, much the same as everyday life. After a year of uncertainty, things began moving again, thanks to Pierre Lazareff (who introduced us to Mag Bodard, a young producer) and my friend Francis Lemarque, with whom I recorded the music. In other words, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a work that was made against everybody’s better judgement!” The parting lovers’ theme song, Je ne pourrai jamais vivre sans toi, initially covered by Nana Mouskouri, became a popular standard, largely owing to the English adaptation by Norman Gimbel ( I Will Wait for You ) as well as versions by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong and Liza Minelli. Legrand continued to set Jacques Demy’s imaginative lyrics to music ( Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, Peau d’âne, Trois places pour le 26 ), although he moved to Los Angeles in 1968 for what he called “a change of scene”.
After the success of the Thomas Crown Affair and his song The Windmills of Your Mind, Legrand decided to divide his time between Paris and Hollywood, working on anything that appealed to him: Un été 42, Lady Sings the Blues, Jamais plus Jamais, Yentl, Prêt-à-porter . Regarding film music as another form of dialogue, Michel Legrand is the only European composer with a filmography that includes names like Orson Welles, Marcel Carné, Clint Eastwood, Norman Jewison, Louis Malle, Andrzej Wajda, Richard Lester, Claude Lelouch, to name just a few. Nonetheless, his prestigious awards in the field of screen music (three Oscars) have had no impact on his creativity. “An Oscar”, he stresses with conviction, “is a gold star, a piece of flattery, the sweet taste of success but, deep down, it doesn’t make you any better or worse as a composer, your strengths or weaknesses remain unchanged. When I was a boy, I imagined that I had a pot of grease with special powers: If I dipped my fingers in it, I would have the technique of a Horowitz. Unfortunately, Oscar statuettes aren’t covered in grease! (Laughter). In any case, that’s not what counts: I wrote all that music for and because of the cinema without films, none of it would exist.”
In 1964, Michel Legrand decided to perform his songs himself, adding yet another string to his bow. His voice became an additional instrument that he could put to unaccustomed use. “My idea”, he admits, “was simply to give it a try, to see what it was all about. I also did it to overcome my shyness. After years of being on stage with my back to the audience, I made up my mind to do the opposite, to turn round and face the spectators. Actually, I started to be tempted by the idea after Jacques Brel asked me to do the first half of his show at the Olympia. I was very surprised. Just as surprised as Claude Nougaro was when I encouraged him to perform the songs we’d written together ( Les Don Juan, Le cinema ). These things show how connected we all are, like interlocking wheels. With Jacques Brel’s encouragement, I took the plunge…” Michel Legrand worked on his voice and focused in particular on building up a repertoire with two writers of his choice: Eddy Marnay ( Les Moulins de mon coeur, Quand on s’aime, Les enfants qui pleurent ) and Jean Dréjac ( Comme elle est longue à mourir majeunesse, Oum le Dauphin, L’été ’42 ). He subsequently had the chance to put music to
lyrics by Jean-Loup Dubadie, Boris Bergman, Françoise Sagan and Jean Guidoni and, in 1981, he himself wrote the words for his album Attendre… which he also performed and composed.
In America, Michel Legrand’s loyalty to Alan and Marilyn Bergman has given rise to scores of great numbers, usually theme songs ( The Summer Knows, How Do You Keep The Music Playing ? and The Way He Makes Me Feel ).
After more than 45 years of composing, Michel Legrand is more versatile than ever. Constantly on the lookout for new encounters and collaborations, he is an indefatigable inventor, refusing to establish a hierarchy between musical genres (“To my mind, a beautiful tango is worth more than some works by Wagner…”) He believes that composition is also an original means of introspection. “The way to make progress”, he declares, “is to be the only one who can create things that no one has ever thought of before. It’s also a way of finding out more about oneself. I want to be more aware of what I can do, even if it means going too far. If I want my ship to continue sailing the waves, I must try out new sails and see where they take me. Having said that, I am highly organized mentally, because of my classical education. I often work on several projects simultaneously. I spend three hours composing for a film, I play the piano for two hours, I finish a song. In fact, every job is a version of the previous one. Even so, music is still a never-ending set of equations that have to be solved. Sometimes, you think of an idea, you can picture it, you can already hear it. You rush over to the score to write it down, thinkinga priori that it’ll be simple and easy. Wrong! Umpteen obstacles suddenly appear: form, content, small details. This is because, if you want to be original, every bar poses a problem.”
Also typical of Michel Legrand’s character is that he rejects the concept of a career: “I hate the idea of goals, results, limits. I’m an artist, not a politician. I’m motivated by life and by the richness and diversity of all kinds of music. Without forgetting that what’s really important is to remain a beginner. One of the most stimulating periods of your life is the time when you’re discovering things, when you’re learning. When you become too skilful, your spontaneity disappears, you’re no longer afraid of anything. I hope I never become someone whom people coolly describe as “very professional”. Throughout my life, I’ve always wanted to vary my musical pleasures, and to remain an eternal beginner, without ever rationalizing things in terms of a “career”. Stravinsky once said: “We insomniacs are always trying to find a cool spot on the pillow.” I’ve been searching endlessly for that spot for years!”
It is impossible to say everything there is to say about Michel Legrand in just a few lines – to describe his love of jazz, his historic sessions with Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Phil Woods or Stéphane Grapelli, his meetings with the big names in classical music (Kiri Te Kanawa, Jessye Norman, Maurice André) or easy listening (Yves Montand, Barbra Streisand, CharlesAznavour), to explain how he became a film producer ( Cinq jours en juin ) or chart the remarkable history of Passe-muraille, an opera buffa written with Didier Van Cauwelaert, which was on the bill at the Bouffes-Parisiens for a year, between 1997 and 1998. In any case, although he may still have some wonderful projects in store, Michel Legrand has already succeeded in meeting one singular challenge – that of living several lives in one lifetime.
2014 saw Michel Legrand still performing 60 concerts across the globe. His new ballet, choreographed by John Neumeier from the Hamburg Ballet opened to phenomenal success in Costa Mesa, California, as a prelude to a US tour. Michel’s new concerto for harp was premiered in Philadelphia in February 2014 and his new opera, ‘Dreyfus’, will open at Opéra de Nice in May 2014. To coincide with the 50th Anniversary of ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’, Michel Legrand will conduct the oratorio version of ‘Les Parapluies de Cherbourg’ at Théâtre Châtelet. There will be 5 exceptional performances preceding a worldwide tour.
The CD “Natalie Dessay Sings Michel Legrand” which was released in October 2013 has been certified gold, with sales of 50,000 in France and was followed by a spectacular world tour for three years.
Shortly after this international tour, the Hamburg Ballet Liliom by John Neumeier commissioned Michel Legrand to write a ballet based on the beautiful story of Liliom. The ballet was choreographed by John Neumeier and was performed for the first time in the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa, California, USA.
In March 2014, Michel Legrand wrote a beautiful score for the new Xavier Beauvois movie ‘Love Is A Perfect Crime’. The movie was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2014 and got nominations at two other film Festivals too. Throughout 2014 he performed concerts in France, Ireland, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Russia, USA, Denmark, The Netherlands and Belgium for more than 50 concerts!
Prior to the 50th anniversary of the movie ’Les Parapluies de Cherbourg’ in September 2014, an Oratorio version of the movie had its Worldwide Première at Le Théatre du Chatelet with the Ile-de-France Symphonic Orchestra conducted by Michel Legrand himself.
The performance had seen such a huge success that more dates were added for 2015; An already busy year with concerts all around the world including a tour in South America with Soprano Natalie Dessay and the recording of new album ‘Michel and friends’ which came out in November later that year.
In January 2016, Michel Legrand gave a stunning performance with a Big Band and friends tenor Vincent Niclo, Soprano Natalie Dessay, and Maurane at Le Palais des Congrès, Paris during the concert ‘Michel Legrand invite Vincent Niclo’.
Later in May 2016 Michel Legrand was in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to receive an honorary Doctorate from Western Michigan University as part of his first visit to the Irving S.Gilmore International Keyboard Festival. While in Kalamazoo, Mr. Legrand performed a commissioned World Premiere, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. Summer 2016 has been filled with Festivals in Argentina, and France and the year will continue to be extremely busy with concerts around Europe. ‘Michel Legrand invite Vincent Niclo’ has been touring until October 2016.
Michel Legrand’s Worldwide 85th Birthday Tour has started this January 2017 with a successful Solo performance opening in Paris.
His Concerto for Piano and Cello album came out in March and many more to come this beautiful year!
Support: Iain Ballamy's 'The Little Radio'
The Little Radio
Iain Ballamy tenor saxophone / Stian Carstensen button accordion
The resonance of button accordion and tenor saxophone is a rare, rich and beautiful sonority. In the hands of these two musicians it is a combination capable of a great range of moods and textures, at times showing great dexterity and alternately a full and rich resonance seemingly far larger than the sum of its parts.
Their repertoire ranges widely from Chopin to Whitney Houston via Eric Satie and Kurt Weil, incorporating classic songs, jazz standards, original works, tangos and even children’s songs to make a rich and diverse program in a new and imaginative setting.
Stian Carstensen, (b.Norway 1971) plays accordion, a traditional Bulgarian flute called the Kaval, bagpipes, guitar, violin, mandolin and banjo. He’s an eclectic musician having studied Bulgarian polyphony in Bulgaria and American Afro-Celtic music in the Appalachians. At the age of 9 when began playing and learning from his father he was quickly recognised as a child prodigy and became a regular on Norwegian TV, radio and at festivals. He’s also toured America playing classical music. At the same time he developed an interest in swing, performing standards with his father playing bass.
At the age of 15 in a fit of teenage angst, Stian threw away his accordion and began to play electric guitar in a rock band. Fortunately this brief spell bored him considerably and his interest in jazz re-emerged. He went on to study jazz at Trondheim conservatory forming his now legendary group called “Farmers Market”
Stian is currently learning pedal steel guitar has recently been prosecuted under Norwegian law for the unique traffic offence of playing the violin whilst driving.
Saxophonist and composer Iain Ballamy (b.Guildford 1964) is recognised internationally as an original, uncompromising and forward-thinking musician.
His work is eclectic, contemporary and un-encumbered by formality and tradition as is clearly evident in his recent writing commissions for Arve Henriksen and the London Sinfonietta, The Henri Oguike Dance Company and the soundtrack for ‘Mirrormask’ the highly acclaimed movie directed by Dave McKean for the Jim Henson Company.
For more than a decade Ballamy has forged strong and ongoing musical relationships with musicians around the globe, especially in the Scandinavian countries where he continues to work with many of the cutting-edge figures of today’s contemporary Jazz scene. The group named ‘Food’ which he co-formed with drummer, composer and electronics wizard Thomas Stronen has signed to ECM records for their seventh release.
Ballamy leads his own quartet ‘Anorak’ featuring Gareth Williams, Steve Watts and Martin France.
April 2013 will see the ECM release and a tour of ‘Quercus’ a unique trio featuring Ballamy with pianist Huw Warren and the legendary folk singer June Tabor.
He is a specialist tutor at The Royal Academy of Music and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.
Ballamy enjoys metal detecting (in what little spare time he has) and being a caring individual, he counsels the jazz fraternity through his Jazz UK magazine shrink column ‘In the saxophonists chair’.
Support: The Ronnie Scotts All Stars
+ support tonight: The Ronnie Scotts All Stars with Special Guest vocalists Emma Smith (Mon) and Natalie Williams (Tues)
Monday's band line up: Alex Garnett (tenor sax), James Pearson (piano), Sam Burgess (bass) and Ed Richardson (drums).
Tuesday's band line up: is Alex Garnett (tenor sax), James Pearson (piano), Sam Burgess (bass) and Chris Higginbottom
The Ronnie Scott's All Stars are comprised of some of the greatest talents on the U.K scene, including some of our most regular performers James Pearson (piano), Sam Burgess (bass) and Pedro Segundo (drums)
Musical Director at Ronnie Scott’s and the owner of a ferocious piano technique coupled with a sense of musicality rarely heard, James Pearson is one of the most exciting musicians to have emerged from the U.K in the last 25 years. After working with him, the late jazz legend Sir John Dankworth declared: "James Pearson is an exceptionally gifted artist. His masterful playing makes him head and shoulders above the rest of his contemporaries. He shows signs of true greatness".
Double Bass Despite only being in his early 30’s, already Sam is a stalwart of the UK jazz scene. As well as appearing on numerous film soundtracks such as 'Bridget Jones's Diary' and 'Hannibal'. Sam’s thumping, pounding, relentlessly driving bass lines have been heard accompanying the likes of Bob James, Billy Kilson, Gary Novak, Joe Lock, Dave Kekowski, Guy Barker, Dave O'Higgins, Pete King, Gareth Williams, Claire Martin, Jim Mullen, Alan Barnes, Tim Whitehead, John Horler, Gwyneth Herbert, John Dankworth, The BBC Big Band and Robbie Williams.
At 22 years old Pedro Segundo, Portuguese drummer joins the James Pearson Trio at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club.
Born and raised in Lisbon, picked up the drums seriously at the age of eight starting studying classical percussion a year later. In June 2011 he graduates from Guildhall School of Music and Drama in Timpani and Classical Percussion. His musical ability combines a blend of styles creating a unique sound on the drum set. He has played regularly with Dennis Rollins, Femi Temowo, Mário Franco, Cleveland Watkiss and many other artists touring in festivals all around the globe.
Other regular performers include:
Dave Ohm (drums), Natalie Williams (vocals), Alex Garnett (sax), Nigel Price (guitar), Steve Rushton (drums), Polly Gibbons (vocals), Alistair White (trombone), Gary Baldwin (hammond), Al Cherry (guitar), Matt Home (drums), Alan Barnes (sax), Ralph Salmins (drums), Arnie Somogyi (bass), Mark Smith (bass), James Nisbet (guitar), Pete Long (sax), Gerard Presencer (Trumpet), Dave O’Higgins (sax), Alec Dankworth (bass), Steve Fishwick (trumpet) and others...
To find out more, please go to:
Tell us what you think of Michel Legrand with the Ronnie Scott's Jazz Orchestra + support Jessica Radcliffe Quartet, Support: The Ronnie Scotts All Stars , Support: Iain Ballamy's 'The Little Radio' below..