The Associated Press caught up with Michel Legrand, interviewed between sets during a six-night run at Birdland jazz club celebrating his 75th birthday.
He talks about improvisation, not taking things too seriously, and the marking of his 75th birthday by leading a jazz trio.
The gig was also a chance to rekindle the flames of his first passion Ã¢â‚¬â€ jazz. Legrand was a teenage prodigy studying classical piano and composition at the Paris Conservatory when he attended trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie’s 1947 concert there.
“Bebop Ã¢â‚¬â€ I didn’t know what it was about. It was a jazz style that I had never heard. It was a revolution to me because during the war, the occupation … the Germans forbid to have any jazz, so we didn’t hear anything. … I listened to Dizzy very carefully and then the next day I bought all the possible 78 records that I could find and it changed my life. …
“Jazz is one of the most important disciplines in music of the 20th century. … The musicians, composers or whoever who don’t play jazz, I pity them,” he said.