Legendary French jazz composer Michel Legrand dies

The Oscar-winner was due to play the UK in 2019

Oscar-winning jazz and film composer Michel Legrand has passed away at the age of 86, as reported by French news outlet AFP. He was a Miles Davis collaborator, three-time Oscar winner and five-time Grammy Award-winning writer, pianist, singer, arranger and bandleader.

Legrand was born in Paris and first entered the city’s conservatoire age 10. He initially studied classical piano but when he went to a Dizzy Gillespie concert aged 16, he refocussed his music towards jazz. In his twenties, he travelled to the USA where he met and collaborated with Bill Evans, Miles Davis and John Coltrane among many others.

Legrand went on to be at the forefront of the French new wave, collaborating with Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Demy, with whom he invented a new genre of film music, blurring the barriers between jazz, classical music and easy listening. His early scores included ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ (1964) and ‘The Young Girls of Rochefort’ (1967), both Oscar-nominated, but his major win came in 1968 with ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ and the song ‘Windmills of your Mind’ which remains a jazz standard.

As recently as 2018, Legrand was composing music for two movies, and still travelling the world with his big band. He last appeared in the UK with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in September, and had plans to return with the Ronnie Scott’s Orchestra this September.

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