Michel Legrand Big Band Plays Richard Rodgers
1. Falling in Love with Love
2. People Will Say We're in Love
3. Bali Ha'i
4. Have You Met Miss Jones?
5. It Might As Well Be Spring
6. This Can't Be Love
7. Some Enchanted Evening
8. There's a Small Hotel
9. Getting to Know You
10. My Funny Valentine
11. The Lady is a Tramp
Broadway is my Beat
12. There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York
13. On the Street Where You Live
14. A Wonderful Guy
16. Make Believe
18. The Surrey with the Fringe on Top
20. I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'
21. If I Loved You
22. Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'
23. Old Devil Moon
24. With a Little Bit of Luck
25. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Michel Legrand - Conductor, arranger
Clark Terry, Ernie Royal, Al Derisi, Snooky Young - Trumpets
Urbie Green, Bob Brookmeyer, Bill Elton, Willie Dennis, John Rains, Dick Lieb, Wayne Andre - Trombones
Thomas Mitchell - Bass trombone
Don Butterfield, Harvey Phillips - Tubas
Richard Berg, George Berg, Al Howard, Harold Feldman, Anthony Castell ano, Don Hammond - Woodwinds
Rick Henderson, Jerry Dodgion - Alto saxes
Phil Woods, Walter Levinsky - Alto saxes, clarinets, flutes
Paul Gonsalves, Al Klink - Tenor saxes
Danny Banks, Sol Schlinger - Baritone saxes
Ray Alonge, Bob Northern, Julius Watkins, Earl Chapin - French horns
Tommy Flanagan, Lou Stein, Hank Jones - Piano
Gary Burton - Vibes
Milt Hinton - Bass
Sol Gubin - Drums
Billy Costa, Warren Smith - Percussion
This CD contains two LPs originally released in 1963 and 1962, on which composer/arranger Michel Legrand conducted large orchestras in well-known tunes. The first eleven tracks comprise compositions by Richard Rodgers - six in collaboration with Lorenz Hart and five with Oscar Hammerstein. These were recorded in New York with a starry line-up of top musicians.
Legrand's arrangements are imaginative and often surprising. For example, the opening Falling in Love with Love is usually performed as a sentimental waltz but, while keeping the waltz tempo, Michel gives it a jaunty jazz lift. He also jazzes up Some Enchanted Evening with echoes of Billy May's style of arranging. He disrupts the straightforward rhythm of People Will Say We're in Love and he slows down The Lady is a Tramp, giving the theme statement to Paul Gonsalves' beguiling tenor sax. In fact he breathes new life into most of the tunes by introducing elements of jazz which could seem disrespectful or out-of-place if they didn't work so well.
The second LP, Broadway is my Beat, was recorded in Paris in 1961. No personnels are listed but there are clearly some jazz musicians in the large ensemble, which also includes strings and a choir. The results are less jazzy than the other LP - closer to easy listening but still full of imaginative Legrand touches. The songs are all from the Great American Songbook, including another five from Richard Rodgers and three by Jerome Kern. A Wonderful Guy is given a French boulevards mood with the characteristic sound of the accordion; Make Believe is unsentimental, with a sprightly beat; and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes has cascading and pizzicato strings, with occasional diversions into waltz time. Underlying all Legrand's arrangements is a streak of mischievousness which leads him to revel in fitting new clothes onto old frameworks.
I suspect that most jazz lovers will prefer the first LP to the second, but most music lovers will enjoy both albums.