Maestro Michel Legrand in Berlin

He opened with a blues (“Ray Blues”) and from the very first notes, you could tell that 83 year old Michel Legrand still has the guts and the ability to play the piano and lead a classic jazz trio with just bass and drums. On stage at Berlin’s Konzerthaus last night, the maestro also added some of his most-loved and best-known songs into the mix.

Michel LegrandWith his high and fragile voice, he gave us all the goosebumps hits that have become standards over the years: “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?”, “The Summer Knows”, “Once Upon A Summertime” “You Must Believe In Spring” or “Watch What Happens” were all included. And even though his voice isn’t really on top anymore and the frailties were obvious, it was nevertheless refreshing to hear these masterpieces done by the master himself.  Michel also included a couple of tracks from “Dingo”, the soundtrack to the 1992 movie of the same name which he wrote with Miles Davis. The main theme (“Dingo Lament”) was given a beautiful vocalese treatment.

He also impersonated various pianists and their respective styles, like Dave Brubeck, Art Tatum, Duke Ellington, Erroll Garner, Count Basie, or George Shearing using “Watch What Happens” as the template and he played his theme from “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (known as “I Will Wait For You”) in different tempos and genres as one of the encores. A classical piece, “Family Fugue”, soon turned into a scatting jazz number and there was even some soft rock element in the mix as well (on “Dingo Rock”).

It seemed though that many of the unusually vast amount of Russians in the audience had no interest whatsoever in watching Monsieur Legrand, who said that he never played in Germany before. There were three older people sitting in the row right in front of me who talked, giggled, and played with their smart phones for the whole 75-minute set and during the encores as well. Maybe they should go and visit one of the upcoming concerts in Ukraine in December or in Moscow, St. Petersburg or Minsk in February.

I also wanted to share my favorite versions of some of Michel’s songs here:

“Watch What Happens” – Morgana King (from “Gemini Changes”, 1967)

“Once Upon A Summertime” – Blossom Dearie (from “Once Upon A Summertime…”, 1958)

“The Summer Knows” – Sarah Vaughan (from “Sarah Vaughan with Michel Legrand”, 1972)

“You Must Believe In Spring” – Carol Sloane (from “Heart’s Desire”, 1992)

“What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?” – Irene Kral (from “You Are There”, 1977)

“The Windmills Of Your Mind” – Abbey Lincoln (from “Over The Years”, 2000).





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