It is difficult to pin the multi-talented Michel Legrand down into one single category. This amazingly versatile French singer, songwriter, composer, arranger, conductor and producer has enjoyed a whirlwind career, excelling in an impressively broad range of domains from film soundtracks and French 'chanson' to jazz and classical music. An international star, who has won as much respect in the States as he has in Europe, Legrand is an insatiable musician whose creativity and ambition appear to know no bounds.
Michel Legrand was born in Bécon-les-Bruyères, in the Paris suburbs, on 24 February 1932. His mother, Marcelle der Mikaelian, married Raymond Legrand, a French musician renowned for hits such as Irma la douce. Michel spent a rather solitary childhood, growing up with his sister, Christiane. He revealed a prodigious musical talent at an early age, playing the piano when he was just four years old. As a child, he was fascinated about the life of composer Franz Schubert. Michel eventually went on to train at the Paris Conservatoire in 1942. He spent seven years there, studying under renowned teachers such as Nadia Boulanger, Henri Challan, Noël Gallon and Lucette Descaves. The young prodigy went on to win numerous awards for his skills in counterpoint, piano, fugue and 'solfège' (an award he received on 6 June 1944).
In the immediate post-war years, Michel Legrand discovered a new passion: jazz. The moment that triggered off this musical conversion was when he attended a concert by Dizzy Gillespie and left, totally blown away by what he had seen! By the time he graduated from the Conservatoire in 1949, Legrand had mastered a dozen instruments. And he found himself launched straight into the world of French 'chanson,' thanks to introductions from his father (with whom he had renewed ties by this point). The gifted teenager was soon working as an accompanist to many of the major French stars of the day including Henri Salvador, Juliette Gréco, Zizi Jeanmaire and Catherine Sauvage.