Legrand Jazz  Even Grander on IMPEX Double 45 AAA Reissue

This is the 45rpm version of IMPEX's 2017 33 1/3 all-analog reissue of Michel Legrand's somewhat overlooked musical and sonic treasure featuring many of the greatest jazz artists of the era. Nothing other than Legrand's passing has changed since the original reissue review, so I'm just repeating it, other than to add that it sounds even "Legrander" at 45rpm, though if you already own IMPEX's 33 1/3 version, it's not really necessary to buy it again, unless you must! An enticement might be the now glossy laminated jacket and gatefold booklet with a very useful and informed essay by KCRW's Tom Schnabel.

BTW: it's a not particularly well-guarded secret, but in case you didn't know: when reissue labels cut lacquers at 33 1/3 they almost always also cut at 45 for a later reissue. Just so you know that this one was cut from the same tape on the same lathe at the same time.

"Mood music" is how the annotation characterizes this album of medium-sized ensembles imaginatively arranged by the then still in his 20s French jazz enthusiast Michel Legrand. Previous to these 1958 sessions Legrand had released three "mood music" concept albums: I Love Paris (CL555), Columbia Album of Cole Porter (C2L4), Legrand in Rio (CL 1139) and I Love Movies (CL 1178). This was his first stab at a real jazz album andgiven the assembled cast of greats what a heady experience it must have been for him to both arrange and conduct in New York City those three days in early summer, 1958.

The musicians include Miles Davis (who gets star billing on the jacket front), John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, Hank Jones, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd, Phil Woods, Ben Webster, Herbie Mann, Milt Hinton and even Teo Macero on baritone sax, plus many others.

Legrand divided the talent into three groups: one was a "whimsical" ensemble of bass, drums, piano, vibes, alto, tenor and baritone sax, bass clarinet, trumpet, guitar, flute and harp. Another an unusual grouping of four trombones, flute, tenor sax (Ben Webster), anchored by bass, drums and piano, while the third and largest group stacked four trumpets, two trombones, two alto, a tenor and a baritone sax, French horn, vibes, piano, bass and drums.

Legrand was painting colors with music in some ways reminiscent of Debussy, as well as Duke Ellington. It might be argued that Legrand's brush used some water colors borrowed from Gil Evans. At least that's what it sounds like. The tunes are all jazz and pop classic standards.

The album opens with a soufflé-light take on Fats Waller's "The Jitterbug Waltz" that of course spotlights Miles, but also gives space for Evans, Coltrane Phil Woods and others. Evans runs with a repeated "leaves fluttering" motif that have you floating. Next comes Django Reinhardt's "Nuages"—a short number arranged for the guitar-less second group featuring Ben Webster whose breathy presence is immediately recognizable.

Not going to do a song by song countdown but a few highlights include a lovely "'Round Midnight" (of course with Miles), a gossamer take on John Lewis's "Django" with Evans on piano, Miles on mute trumpet and Betty Glamann's heavily harp floating above, and a four trumpet version of "Night In Tunisia". The tracking mixes and matches pleasingly with the raucous "Night in Tunisia" followed by "Blue and Sentimental" after which you'll feel like getting up and wiping from your speakers the moisture deposited by Webster's solo.

The recording epitomizes the 30th Street Studio sound circa 1958. Does anything else have to be said? As you might recall, a Speakers Corner reissue of this record with the European cover was one of that label's few debacles as it was from a mono tape that had been electronically reprocessed for stereo acquired from Legrand's manager who had it stored in a closet. No doubt SC thought they'd scored some kind of coup but no one must have listened.

This IMPEX reissue is sourced from an "analog mix-down transfer of the original 1958 work tape by Mark Wilder at Battery Studios" and cut by Chris Bellman and Bob Donnelly at Bernie Grundman Mastering on Grundman's all-tube mastering system. I have a clean, original 6-Eye pressing that this superbly pressed reissue betters in every way. This will make both your stereo and your heart sing. Some of the greatest jazz musicians of that or any era wailing and clearly having a Legrand time. Limited to 3000 copies. Don't miss it!

Music Direct Buy It Now

doak's picture

That’s an all-star lineup, for sure.
Is there a good (at least) 33 reissue available?

Michael Fremer's picture
IMPEX's original 33 1/3 is still in print, or if you can find a used one on say, DISCOGS.com
doak's picture

I ask mainly due to my lack of skill at moving the drive thread on my WTA.
Just call me "Sausage Fingers."

Chemguy's picture

...this will be too good to pass up, Michael. Remembering the first review of this one when I stumbled upon an original Columbia 6 eye last year, I picked it up...and haven’t put it down since!

This recording will be worth the investment. And I love 45 rpm lps!

Arno's picture

And I am not amazed that often. The music, the pressing and swopping my brain between "hey now I am in a Miles session and next I am im something else" ;-). Great listening!

Intermediate Listener's picture

is great. This may run me off the (Analog) planet, but does anyone else prefer the convenience of an excellent 33 to the better sound of its 45 equivalent?

AndreC.'s picture

First they came out with a numbered limited edition. The second step was to bring it out as a not numbered limited edition. ... after all they think what now? ... yes the next step is the 45er edition limited and numbered. And the next step is the not numbered but limited 45er edition. Yes I know everybody could make his own decision what to buy, but think about the first step (nobody will give you the information what they plan and what the next editions will be). Is it ok? ... maybe, or maybe not. But it is not a fair thing. I own the 45er Ansermet RBGP which came out a few weeks ago and is it the Holy Grail? For me it is, but I although own the 33er edition and I did not know if I had really waited till the 45er edition to make a buying decision. But what I know for me is that I will never buy a limited numbered edition from Impex again.

Rashers's picture

That Miles Davis played as a sideman. It is one of the forgotten masterpieces of jazz. I must say that I’m not a big fan of 45rpm - hard to relax: does the 45 really sound better than the 33 (which sounds wonderful)?
Can somebody explain what an “analog mix down transfer of the .... work tape” means? Does it mean that they made a copy of the original master tape and cut the lacquers from it?

Paul Boudreau's picture

Miles appeared on a 1991 Shirley Horn record entitled “You Won’t Forget Me.”


Rashers's picture

I was just thinking that, the "The Hot Spot" (https://www.allmusic.com/album/the-hot-spot-original-soundtrack-mw000031...) soundtrack wasn't technically a Miles Davis album either (strongly recommended, particularly the Analog Productions vinyl version).

Paul Boudreau's picture

I think that “work tape” is the same as “session tape,” meaning the original multi-tracks recorded during the studio sessions (three tracks in 1958?) and of course “mix down” would mean mixing those tracks to two-track mono or one-track mono. I think!

Paul Boudreau's picture

That is.

sasm.1971@gmail.com's picture

Goog Morning,
greetings from Portugal.
I own the Speaker´s Corner edition; how would you compare it with this particular one?

Kind Regards.

ViciAudio's picture

Concerning the Speakers Corner version, it isn't good at all and not comparable to the quality of the Impex.

Here are some words from Michael Fremer about it (taken from the Impex 33rpm review):

"As you might recall, a Speakers Corner reissue of this record with the European cover was one of that label's few debacles as it was from a mono tape that had been electronically reprocessed for stereo acquired from Legrand's manager who had it stored in a closet. No doubt SC thought they'd scored some kind of coup but no one must have listened."

If you love this album, as you should, get the Impex version. Boas audições :)

GAAudioLVR's picture

I had never heard of Michel Legrand until the 100 Analog Reissue video, so thank you for the introduction. Since then I have watched a good many videos, especially of his early 2000's performances. As much as I enjoy him playing, it's equally fun to watch Michel enjoy others in his group perform. His reactions to the other soloists in the ensemble are infectious. I will be buying this album but might go with the 33 1/3, I'm not quite sure just yet.

jazz's picture

3D and cleaner with sharper transients on my setup than the Impex 33