Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


Michel LEGRAND The Thomas Crown Affair OSTRYKO RCD 10719  


Crotchet (UK)

This classic film of the 1960s will for ever be associated with two of its elements: the song 'Windmills of Your Mind' and the suggestive chess scene between Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. The song is sung distinctively by Noel Harrison. He does not have much of a voice but he is indelibly memorable and distinctive. From the beginning you are struck by what a fine song it is and by the ear-catching orchestration. Listen for example to the deep brass chord under the word ‘round’ from ‘Round like a circle in a spiral.’ So many popular song accompaniments are brainless. This one has a profusion of fine details to entertain and stimulate.

The style of the score is two-fold. The big symphonic score for the two songs is approachable and comparatively easy to assimilate without being boring. A similar style reappears only briefly on this disc: for the song His Eyes, Her Eyes (sung by Legrand) at track 9 and in the orchestral only Windmills track at 17. The music is sharply evocative of many French films of the 1960s: a cool, sophisticated romanticism with jazz inflections.

The remainder of the score (circa ten tracks) is a jazz-melts-into-orchestra concoction. The notes suggest that it is a sort of jazz influenced ‘symphony’. Jazz is a strong influence but is fused into a myriad orchestral details which would not be out of place on a major impressionist orchestral score. There is jazz sleaze [3] it is true but in [5] a fluttering and spinning flute, cross-cut with strings introduces an oboe serenade reminiscent of Malcolm Arnold. The music is thoroughly engaging and inventive even if (like me) you do not warm to jazz. Rich plush strings strike across the texture. A softly shuffling drum kit could ruin the atmosphere but Legrand avoids that with great skill. Vibraphone (always associated with Lionel Hampton) adds anpther dimension. Once in a while you feel wafted back in time to a ‘sophisticated’ 1970s hotel lobby but this is rare enough not to put you off the score. The erotic chess game music deploys maracas and various other items of Latin American percussion with dessicated chipping and zipping noises. The vibraphone reappears with a moaning trumpet accompaniment. There is an Arnoldian swoon to the strings which glowing gently. The approach is like the aural equivalent of a mosaic. A tinkling harpsichord contributes another pointilliste effect soon swept away with a brief recollection of Rhapsody in Blue. There are shrieks and bird calls. Track 8 opens with an upbeat Latino rhythm and dissolves into trumpets counterpointed with hanging bells, brash brazen trombones and briefly (but horrifically) a ‘dabbadoo’ vocal in Swingle style.

Legrand sings His Eyes Her Eyes - with nice and presumably authentic French accent. There is a little jazziness in the accompaniment but the piano which is made to make some startling harp-like effects offer splashily engaging music. Track 10 reintroduces light scampering vibraphone and trumpet punctuation over the top. Track 13 opens unpromisingly with some bland commercial jazz but soon too a welter of detail rushes in like some complex of undertows, tidal currents and whirlpools. The vibraphone reappears and even the Hammond (get thee back to the infernal regions!) does not sound too bad - a close call though!

Track 14 might just as easily suggest a portrait of the streets of Paris early in the morning with a hero/anti-hero relaxed, at ease and warmly confident in tune with the world. The possibilities seem limitless and confidence is high in a rain-freshened world. Malcolm Arnold’s sophistication is suggested in the strings and by a tortured high trumpet skating razor sharp across the top of the music. I wonder if Malcolm knows and enjoys this score? It would not surprise me.

The recording quality is fine for such old tapes. There is first class stereo separation and the sound does not come across as over-processed. John Bender is the author of the useful notes. Again plenty of stills although they would have looked better without the tinting.

It would have been good to be able to identify the fabulous soloists who grace every gem and fragment of this mosaic score. The score is more of a giant set of panels made of a mosaic of small episodes jazz and classic in style. Each little tile is perfect and floating free.

Legrand’s other American scores include Ice Station Zebra (1968), Wuthering Heights (1970), The Go-Between (1971), The Three Musketeers (1974) and The Picasso Summer (1969).

I warmly recommend this release and not only for nostalgiacs.


Rob Barnett

 Ian Lace adds -

Rob Barnett has just about said it all, but I would like to add that I found this score irresistable. This polished and sophisticated jazz-dominated score is very approachable as easy listening music and you will find your ear is continually captivated by so many unusual sonic images, so many interesting instrumental dialogues and juxtapositionings. Take the smoochy conversation piece between clarinet and trumpet in the "Doubting Thomas" cue; the superb multi-layered "Chess" with its sexual innuendo and its rattle-snake sounds warning that danger lurks behind Dunaway's sheen of elegant sophistication; or the intoxicating latin rhythms of "Cash and Carry." An album that will surely make repeated visits to many CD trays.


Ian Lace



Rob Barnett


Ian Lace

Return to Index