Michel Legrand & Miles Davis: Legrand Jazz

As compensation for receiving only a fee, not royalties, for his 1954 hit I Love Paris, Legrand got to record with the cream of 50s jazzmen

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Was this the original supergroup? In the late 1950s, Legrand was a rising star who could do no wrong with Columbia Records. Whilst an extremely talented composer and musician, he was not a mainstream jazz musician. In fact, he wasn’t even a small tributary – but he was a major fan.

He had just had a major American chart success with the album I Love Paris but had been paid a fee instead of royalties. In recompense, Columbia offered Legrand (at his request) the opportunity to record with some of their best jazz artists. Composer and arranger that he was, he didn’t settle for a string of solos on the changes but created imaginative new settings for 11 standards with call-and-response solos and atmospheric orchestrations.

The first session took place 25 June 1958 and featured Miles Davis, Herbie Mann, Jerome Richardson, Phil Woods, John Coltrane, Betty Glamann, Eddie Costa, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers and Kenny Dennis. It yielded four tracks for the album – Wild Man Blues (Morton), ’Round Midnight (Monk), The Jitterbug Waltz (Waller) and Django (Lewis), which features a fine performance by Davis as the sole horn player.

The second set was recorded two days later. This was a more brass-laden affair and features the trombones of Frank Rehak, Billy Byers, Jimmy Cleveland and Eddie Bert. The session also features Herbie Mann, Ben Webster and Hank Jones among others. Tracks that made it on to the finished album from this set were Rosetta (Hines), Nuages (Reinhardt), Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (Ellington) and Blue And Sentimental (Basie).

The final session came on the 30 June 1958 and features a strong trumpet section including Art Farmer, Ernie Royal, Donald Byrd, Joe Wilder and Phil Woods. Three tracks made it to the final cut – Stompin’ At The Savoy (Goodman), A Night In Tunisia (Gillespie) and In A Mist (Beiderbecke).

Legrand and Davis only recorded together twice but they played together many times. In 1997, Legrand recalls how Davis would come to the session in 1958 and stand at the door. If he liked what he heard, he would stay and if he didn’t, he would leave and not return. “I was 24 years old and I was so scared, I was sweating,” he said.

Considering that this album – reissued here on 180g red vinyl – features 31 of America’s greatest jazzmen, it is perhaps not as well known as it should be. Legrand didn’t record another mainstream jazz record and maybe his later fame as a composer of soundtracks diluted interest in his jazz work. The reissue here on 180g red vinyl – oddly interposing a Miles Davis 1953 version of ’Round Midnight – might spark renewed interest.

Discography
(1) Wild Man Blues; ’Round Midnight; The Jitterbug Waltz; Django; (2) Nuages; (3) ’Round Midnight; – (2) Rosetta; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; Blue And Sentimental; (4) Stompin’ At The Savoy; A Night In Tunisia; In A Mist (48.36)
(1) Davis (t); Herbie Mann (f); Jerome Richardson (cl); Phil Woods (as); John Coltrane (ts); Betty Glamann (h); Eddie Costa (vib); Bill Evans (p); Barry Galbraith (g); Paul Chambers (b); Kenny Dennis (d). New York, 25 June 1958.
(2) Frank Rehak, Billy Byers, Jimmy Cleveland, Eddie Bert (tb); Herbie Mann (f); Ben Webster (ts); Hank Jones (p); Major Holley (tu); George Duvivier (b); Don Lamond (d). New York, 27 June 1958.
(3) Davis (t); Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker (ts); Walter Bishop, Jr. (p); Percy Heath (b); Philly Joe Jones (d).
New York, 30 January 1953.
(4) Art Farmer, Ernie Royal, Donald Byrd, Joe Wilder (t); Rehak, Cleveland (tb); Jimmy Buffington (frh); Gene Quill, Phil Woods (as); Seldon Powell (ts); Teo Macero (bar); Don Elliott (vib); Nat Pierce (p); Milt Hinton (b); Osie Johnson (d). New York, 30 June 1958.
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