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on September 21, 2000
This is my favorite jazz record from the 1950s. Legrand's orchestrations have a subtle mixture of romantic understantement and Stravinskian modernity that is absolutely fantastic; they truly add some incredible complexity to what the soloists are doing without in any way hampering them, in fact, they inspire them to new heights of expressive purity.
Legrand is famous for his 'romantic' jazz-influenced soundtracks for "The Thomas Crown Affair," "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" and other flicks, which can often get too schmaltzy and nauseating. On Legrand Jazz, however, he tried to make his ultimate artistic statement without any commercial compromise, and man did it work! Everything is just right and there isn't a touch of mawkishness anywhere---just sophisticated, transcendent music. All the tracks are super-sublime and fancy-fine, and the more you listen to them the better they get.
Each of these three 1958 dates featured a different band: a 10 piece, an 11, and 15. The players? Ben Webster, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Phil Woods, Hank Jones, Jimmy Cleveland, Art Farmer, Ernie Royal, Donald Byrd, Herbie Mann, Eddie Costa, Paul Chambers, just to name a few of the more famous honchos. There are plenty of solos but they weave themselves in and out of the arrangements in a way that synergizes the music and lifts it to a higher plane. Especially choice among a record full of choice solos are Ben Webster's super-creamy lines on "Blue and Sentimental," and, of course, Miles Davis' immortal poetry on "Round Midnight," "Django" and "Jitterbug Waltz."
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on March 6, 2000
I can't believe nobody's written a review for this one of a kind masterpiece of a record. Legrand's awesome and beautifully subtle orchestrations provide the perfect balance and sophistication for the cream (and I mean cream) of jazz players circa 1959. The unique combination of top soloists on some of these tracks alone make this a great disc. These particular guys would've never played on these particular tracks if not for Legrand's suggestion (and never had before excepting Miles on "Round Midnight.")Where else can you hear John Coltrane and Phil Woods in the same group? But this is far more than an "all-star" blow out. Legrand retained but toned down his famous "romantic" side and added thoroughly modern Stravinskiesque touches providing all the virtues of the best orchestral music while leaving the soloists room to breath. Just compare this to some of the garbage orchestras Wes Montgomery was backed with! All the tracks are excellent--timeless--any one of them worth the price of the CD many times over. Miles Davis' playing on "Django,""Round Midnight," and "Jitterbug Waltz" is heartbreakingly beautiful, some his best playing. Do your soul justice and buy this album.
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on May 8, 2003
My vinyl copy of Legrand Jazz bought in 1961 is a much worn and treasured audio treat. The availability of the same on CD was a great relief. In the 50 years I have been seriously listening to music I keep returning to this brilliant and unique collection. There is just nothing else like it for comparison. The tune selection covers the spectrum of jazz styles from Fats Waller to John Lewis. The muscians were all obviously selected for their individualistic solo styles and yet they blend into wonderful ensembles thanks to Legrand's quirky and surprising arrangments. The arrangements are complex but direct and the musicians' enthusiasm for the material is obvious...nobody was sleep-walking at these sessions. Some of the combinations are genius. Nuages has a trombone choir with one of Ben Webster's breathy solos. Django has Miles in front of vibes and a harp. This is serious music that shows the possibilities of jazz in the right hands.
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on May 9, 2000
The "editorial review" shown above is inexplicably mismatched and half of it has nothing to do with "LeGrand Jazz"! The first "listener review" is the correct one. This classic session is from circa1958--not the generation afterward. Very swinging; inspired arranging. The finest jazz musicians on the scene (in a significant year for memorable jazz records)--you'll hear them on this session! Michel from early in his career. Short tracks are the only drawback; musically, it wails. This music was first released on vinyl LP, long before the digital era. That may explain the typically brief length of the pieces.
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Legrand is one of those polymath musicians who fits in the same category as Andre Previn and Leonard Bernstein--a composer of classical musical forms and film scores (200 in Legrand's case), a swinging pianist capable of taking the stage with Oscar Peterson (which he did) and of playing jazz sets (at Shelly Manne's Manhole in the '50s and a NYC club in 2008), and a great popular songwriter (perhaps one of the several best of the past 40-50 years). As clever and fresh as the arrangements on this collection are, as distinguished as are the individual musicians, I must take exception with those reviewers who proclaim it the best recording of the '50s. Even if we rule out Blue Note, Riverside, Emarcy, Verve, Contemporary, Pacific Jazz, etc., this album is not even among the top ten Columbia recordings. The album's strength--its variety and range (LeGrand is careful to encompass the spectrum of jazz history in his selection of tunes)--is also its weakness.

Rather than a mere "taste" of Miles or whomever, I would much rather go for the undiluted complete package of such Columbia classic '50s recordings as "Jazz Goes to College" (Brubeck), "'Round Midnight" (Miles), "Newport '56" and "Such Sweet Thunder" (Ellington), "Blue Rose" (Duke and Clooney), "Blue Trombone" (J.J. Johnson), "Concert by the Sea" (Garner), "The Jazz Messengers" (Blakey and Silver both at their best), "Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy" (one of several Columbia indispensables by Pops), "Miles Ahead," "Porgy and Bess," "Sketches of Spain" (Gil Evans with Miles), "Lady in Satin" (Billie Holiday with full string orchestra), the "Hi Los and All That Jazz." And these are just a few quick examples from the Columbia catalog that come to mind. Yet in this year when the Blue Note story has caused many to rediscover that fabled company (2009 is the 70th Anniversary of the label), its contributions to the African-American art form of jazz are relatively limited compared to the seminal recordings produced by George Avakian and Columbia.

Columbia, fortunately, sold enough jazz records to invite creative projects such as this Legrand album, but there were others--equally deserving endeavors--that haven't even been reissued: Jon Hendricks' "Evolution of the Blues," Duke's "A Drum Is a Woman," Andre Previn and J. J. Johnson's album of Kurt Weil songs. And finally in this year of its 50th anniversary, we come to the most successful recording of all time--both commercially and artistically (in fact, it's hard to think of a more influential and vital recording): Miles' "Kind of Blue."

Of all my early Columbia LPs, this one gets the fewest plays. The arrangements are original, the playing is first-rate, but all of these tracks are essentially "face-lifts" of the original recordings, none of which is eclipsed by LeGrand's re-imagining of it.
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on May 9, 2000
The "editorial review" shown above is inexplicably mismatched and more than half of it has nothing to do with "LeGrand Jazz"! The first "listener review" is the correct one. This classic session is from circa1958--not the generation afterward. Very swinging; inspired arranging. The finest jazz musicians on the scene (in a very significant year for jazz records)--you'll hear them on this session! Michel from early in his career.
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on August 9, 2013
I've been wanting to purchase this classic gem with musicians such as John Coltrane, Ben Webster, Bill Evans, Eddie Costa and Phil Woods featured along with Nat Pierce and Paul Chambers providing ample support. Too bad Legrand himself couldn't play on these tracks as he later did on his RCA recordings but this is still worth having.
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on June 11, 2015
This is a great 1958 record, adding a wonderful modern style to many standards, with an all-star cast. But it is so reflective of the sounds on Atlantic's vastly under appreciated 1956 "Teddy Charles Tentet" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Teddy_Charles_Tentet ) that I can't believe that Legrand was not seriously influenced by the latter. And Teddy should have been the vibist on here! At the working level, he was a mover/shaker.
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on March 7, 2013
This is a classic! Michel LeGrand's arrangements of jazz standards (no originals here) are extraordinary. He also managed to assemble many of the greatest names in jazz to play them - Miles, Coltrane, Ben Webster, Donald Byrd, Herbie Mann, Paul Chambers... there are just too many to list.

That being said, I'd look for another version. This Polygram release has the best liner notes, but not the best sound. It's not awful, but I have a French version (sadly, I no longer see it on Amazon) that sounds better (and also preserves the original track order). The liner notes stink (Fats Waller's 'JitterBug Waltz' listed as 'The Jiterbug' by 'F. Walter') but the sound is excellent.

If you can't find another version, BUY THIS ONE. the sound is not THAT bad, and the music... Ooh La La!
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on September 28, 2010
Too few people know Michel Legrand, and half of those don't as a jazz musician. The understated name this master has mostly came from 1960s soundtracks: The Thomas Crown Affair is most well known.

Legrand's arranging is indelible. He has American swing and European elegance. We now think of crime jazz as a cleche, but Legrand's work of the era showed that cloak and dagger, swingin' pad sound really did exist. Just ask his horns.

On Legrand jazz, his stamp is put on standards. This album was made in the 1950s, before he wrote the sophisticated structures for his brilliant film scores. "Night In Tunisia," and "Round Midnight" are here.

To me these sound more like cool jazz. It does have dramatic flair: not as much as Legrand developed in the 1960s. The arrangements here remind me of Gil Evan's. Not surprising: my copy has Legrand sitting next to Miles Davis.
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