Although the musical Amour, with a score composed by Michel Legrand, had only a brief run on Broadway in 2002, it earned a Tony Award nomination for its female lead, Melissa Errico, who in 2005 began working with Legrand and producer Phil Ramone on a solo album of Legrand's songs. She put that project aside to take a career hiatus and start a family, then recorded an album about children and motherhood, 2008's Lullabies & Wildflowers. So, it took until 2011 for the long-gestating Legrand album to appear, but it proves worth the wait. Legrand Affair is a full-scale collaboration between singer and composer, with Legrand providing arrangements and orchestrations, and even stepping in to accompany Errico on piano and, on "Once Upon a Summertime," to sing (and scat) along. His charts for some of his best-known movie themes are lush and pastoral, and Errico, with her restrained, precise singing, is an ideal vocal embodiment of the lyrics. Many of those words were contributed by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, who bring to their settings of Legrand's swirling, circular melodies appropriately poetic and elliptical lyrics. The classic example, of course, is the series of similes that makes up the lyric to the Academy Award-winning "The Windmills of Your Mind" from the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair. But the Bergmans also provide a succession of prepositional phrases for "In Another Life," and elsewhere they traffic heavily in nature and weather imagery to describe the contours of long-term love affairs. Errico studiously avoids material that the Legrand/Bergman team wrote for Barbra Streisand; no "The Way We Were" or anything from Yentl. But the veteran composer has written so many songs that she still has plenty to choose from, including a couple of French lyrics. And Legrand makes as strong an impression in the album as the singer, usually allowed an instrumental section in each song to get his point across with ravishing, often wistful strings. He is a full participant in his own tribute, but Errico also stakes a claim as a major interpreter of his catalog.
Legrand Affair: The Songs of Michel Legrand Review
by William Ruhlmann