In popular culture, Michel Legrand (who turned 79 on February 24, 2011) is best known for his accomplishments as a composer. But people who really know their jazz also respect the Paris native for his work as an acoustic pianist, and on Umbrellas & Sunshine: The Music of Michel Legrand, fellow acoustic pianist Roger Davidson pays tribute to both Legrand the composer and Legrand the pianist. Forming an intimate duo with upright bassist David Finck, Davidson salutes Legrand's pianistic style, but does so on his own terms. In other words, Davidson acknowledges elements of Legrand's playing, but isn't actually trying to emulate him; the lyrical Davidson still sounds like himself. And he tackles an intriguing variety of Legrand pieces on this 2009 recording. Many of the songs are well-known standards, including "You Must Believe in Spring," "Watch What Happens," "The Summer Knows," and "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" (which is part of a medley that also includes "The Easy Way"). But Davidson makes his share of less obvious choices as well. Among them: "His Eyes, Her Eyes" (from the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair), "The First Time" (which was heard in Falling in Love Again, a romantic comedy from 1980), and the obscure "Look." Many people who are big admirers of Legrand are unfamiliar with "Look," and the very fact that Davidson included that rarity shows that he wasn't afraid to do his homework. So even though Umbrellas & Sunshine has its share of well-known standards, Davidson obviously didn't want this 52-minute CD to have an all-standards-all-the-time approach. Davidson is hardly the first jazz musician to pay homage to Legrand, and he certainly won't be the last. But his sense of adventure makes Umbrellas & Sunshine one of the more memorable Legrand tributes of the 2000s.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson