Composer Legrand spinning windmills of his mind

Mon Nov 16, 2009 10:31pm EST
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By Steve James

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It could be a scene from a film noir: Michel Legrand is sitting in the suffused elegance of the St Regis hotel sipping tea, while a downpour lashes the streets.

"It's pouring rain in Manhattan...," the 77-year-old French jazz and film-music legend sings playfully, when a reporter asks if the torrent inspires him to write a song.

A smiling Legrand toys with the thought for a semibreve longer, then breaks the magic. "No, I don't think so...not today!

"Inspiration doesn't happen the day the adventure happens," he explains. "In five years' time, I might say: 'I want to write something about the pouring rain and New York'...and then my memory comes back and I can explain everything. But today I don't need or want to write a song."

Legrand, it seems, has been drawing on his memory forever, scoring films and writing indelible movie melodies. But, as he is at pains to point out, that was just one phase of a career that also embraces jazz, opera, classical works and musicals.

It's just that when you have written film scores and songs like "I Will Wait For You" from "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (1965), "The Windmills of Your Mind," from "The Thomas Crown Affair" (1968) or "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" from "The Happy Ending" (1969), people tend to file him away under "movies"

Legrand, who has won three Oscars and five Grammys, is driven to always try something new. Currently he is touring selected North American cities playing jazz piano as well as some of his most popular pieces, along with singer Dionne Warwick. They play New York's Lincoln Center on Nov 21.