Sunday, December 16, 2012

ND - Michel Legrand: Legrand in Rio

[UPDATES: Go to the bottom of the post to see an update on the subject]

Every once in a while I'll publish small pieces of discographical research, or notes on discography (hence, ND). This one is about an old LP by Michel Legrand, who came to prominence in jazz with his Legrand Jazz, recorded in the summer of '58. That was a true all-star affaire (Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans, Ben Webster...) commanded by a 26-year Frenchman just arrived in New York... Have times changed!

Legrand in Rio itself was recorded and published months before than Legrand Jazz, and musically it's closer to previous efforts such as I Love Paris than to the celebrated jazz album. In Rio is a well-crafted, well-executed collection of instrumentals, not bland and with a few competent jazz solos, but very much an easy-listening pop record. As in I Love Paris, there's some heavy tape-editing, with string sections fading in from (and fading out to) nowhere, as well as plenty of "Latin" percussion. The tunes are Brazilian, Spanish, Cuban, Mexican, and Argentinian classics, but even so the album came out as Legrand in Rio in the US and the UK.

Although by listening to the record it's clear that Legrand in Rio and Legrand Jazz are worlds apart, for some reason In Rio has been lumped together with Legrand Jazz (of which all dates and personnel are known) in discographies, probably as a wild guess. This is what both Lord and Bruyninckx gave the last time I looked:
Michel Legrand and his Orchestra : big band said to include and feature Miles Davis, Ernie Royal, Joe Wilder, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd (tp) Phil Woods (as) John Coltrane (ts-1) Eddie Costa (vib) + others including rhythm, latin-perc and strings
New York, c. late 1957/early 1958
The "ts-1" after Coltrane means that he's supposed to play on "Bésame Mucho", but on aural evidence, the tenor sax doesn't sound like 1958 Coltrane at all. This is the tenor solo on "Bésame mucho":

And, for what they might be worth, these are the solos from "Siboney":

Fine solos, but they just doesn't sound like 1958 Trane to me. Lord doesn't even list him, and it quotes Yasuhiro Fujioka's Coltrane discography:
According to Yozo Iwanami's interview with Legrand this session does not include John Coltrane. Some discographies list Coltrane in error.
About Coltrane and Miles, Bruyninckx adds this note:
According to a conversation with Kurt Mohr way back in the 60's Michel Legrand told Kurt that Coltrane was present. He did not mention Miles Davis. In a interview some 30 years later somebody else had an interview with Legrand who this time told him Coltrane was not present? Take your pick. When I talked on the phone with Toots Thielemans some time ago and I mentioned him some sessions on which he took part he was surprised and said "Did I really played on that session? I can't remember it".
Apparently Legrand wasn't too clear about this session in an interview with a French journalist either.

A busy session musician not recalling his or her taking part in a session is not only common, but quite understandable. Session work in 1950s New York was very abundant, and it would be impossible for a musician to remember every recording gig. Phil Woods, for instance, didn't recall playing on this album when I asked him a few years ago. However, the main reason why Mr. Woods doesn't remember is because it looks like neither he, nor any fellow Americans, played at the relevant sessions.

Luckily, we've had access to primary sources for these recordings, and this is what they say: According to information from the French Philips label, Legrand in Rio was recorded in Paris, at Studio Blanqui, on January 31; February 7, 11, 14, 19, 26, 27; and March 7, 1958 by Michel Legrand et son Orchestre, which comprised French musicians whose names have not been preserved in the files. Besides, Legrand in Rio's file at Columbia Records' archives in New York states "Taken from Philips Tapes", and more importantly regarding the personnel, "AFM ROYALTY: No".

It looks like there were no American jazzmen on this one, then.

We also know that Legrand was in Paris right before those January-March dates: According to a Collectables reissue (COL-CD-7604), Frankie Laine and Michel Legrand recorded Foreign Affair (Columbia Records, CL 1116) in Paris on January 20 and 21, 1958 (the anonymous liner notes on the Columbia Legrand in Rio do mention the Frankie Laine album). Besides, Legrand himself was interviewed on French TV on January 26, just five days before the first session for In Rio. You can see him briefly here.

According to the file from Columbia records, Legrand in Rio was released as Columbia CL 1139, a 12" red vinyl on May 19, 1958 in the US. In that same year it was released in France as Album Tropical (Philips B 77 314 L) and in Britain as Legrand in Rio (Philips BBL 7262). As far as I know, the most recent reissue is a Japanese CD (Sony SICP 1371) from 2007. I don't have that reissue, but have checked Sony SRCS 7151 (published in 1995) and it does not carry any references to Philips or Universal, which may have contributed to the confusion about this album.

The link between Philips (now Universal) and Columbia (now Sony) is the leasing agreement both companies had in the late 1950s, long before multinational music corporations, by which, for instance, Michel Legrand's records were recorded by the French Philips label, and subsequently released by Columbia in America (that's why most American fans will be familiar with Legrand Jazz as a Columbia LP, but as a Philips, Mercury, Phonogram, Verve, PolyGram, Universal CD, delete as appropriate).

The question, then, is who plays in this record. There are a few competent solos on tenor sax, trumpet (including some stemless Harmon-muted) and vibes. Alors, qui joue dans ce disque ?

I haven't been able to track any accurate information on personnel. But for an estimation, from the back of a 1956 record by Legrand (suggested by Guy Kopelowicz) we get the following personnel:
Trumpets: Fred Gérard, Roger Guérin, Fernand Verstraete, Maurice Thomas, René Leger.
Trombones: Michel Paquinet, André Paquinet, Guy Destangue, and Raymond Katarzynsky.
French Horns: André Fournier, Georges Durand, Frank Monnereau, and Marc Barbier.
Saxes: Jo Hrasko, Marcel Hrasko, René Nicolas, William Boucaya, Pierre Gossez, and Armand Migiani.
Double bass: Ladislas Czabanyik.
Drums: Gus Wallez.
Percussion: Serge Bonnin.
From Alain Tercinet, via Philippe Baudoin (merci beaucoup!), I got this list of top Paris jazz/studio musicians from c. 1958:
Trumpets: Fred Gérard, Roger Guérin, Fernand Verstraete, Bernard Hulin, and Christian Bellest.
Trombones: Benny Vasseur, André Paquinet, Raymond Katarzynsky, Claude Gousset, and Bill Tamper.
Flute: Raymond Guiot.
Saxes: Pierre Gossez (cl, as, ts), Jo Haskro (as), René Nicholas (as), Marcel Hrasko (ts), Georges Grenu (ts) William Boucaya (as, bs), and Armand Migiani (bs).
Vibes: Michel Hausser
Double bass: Alf Masselier, Popof Medvedko, Pierre Michelot, Jean Bouchety, or Guy Pedersen.
Drums: Roger Paraboschi, Arthur Motta, or Gus Wallez.
And finally, on January 26, 1958, Legrand had with him this personnel:
André Paquinet (tb),
William Boucaya (ts), Pierre Gossez (bars), and René Nicolas (as),
Fernand Verstraete (tp), Roger Guérin (flugelhorn),
Guy Pedersen (bass),
André Carradot (French horn), and
Pierre René Lemarchand (drums).
From this, I'd be confident enough to mention the horns listed in the TV programme as present in Legrand in Rio, and would say that "probably" the same rhythm section. As for the string section, the oboe(s), harp and percussion, I wouldn't know.

Finally, it'd be great if some colleague in France would come up with the personnel of this orchestra and give these musicians their due credit.


UPDATE #1: It's nice to throw a stone in the water and see the ripples coming back to you. Thanks for this to one of the great scholars in jazz, Brian Priestley: I covered the misattribution of Legrand In Rio 30 years ago, in my footnote to the Legrand entry (June 25, 1958) of a Miles discography I did for Ian Carr's biography. Yes, Legrand In Rio was recorded in Paris and, in a 90-second chat with Legrand, I established that the trumpeter who imitates Miles's harmon-mute sound was Fernand Verstraete - according to the bandleader.]

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