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Thursday, December 07, 2006

News from Costa Communications and Michel Legrand Live in Brussels DVD Review


From Costa Communications

FILM COMPOSER JEFF DANNA WINS BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM SCORE AWARD AT 17th ANNUAL SOCAN AWARDS GALA

Resident Evil: Apocalypse Takes Canada's Top Honor

(Toronto, November 22, 2006) - Composer Jeff Danna has been honored with the SOCAN International Film Music award for his work on the #1 Sony Pictures release, Resident Evil: Apocalypse. SOCAN (The Society of Composers Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) and the best of Canada's music industry came together in recognition of some of this country's most talented songwriters, composers, lyricists and music publishers at the 17th annual SOCAN Awards Gala. Hosted by country artist Jason McCoy, the SOCAN Awards acknowledge members' and other music industry influencers' outstanding achievements from the previous year. Other award recipients included: Avril Lavigne for "Breakaway"; Michael Bublé for "Home"; Nickelback for "Photograph;" Chantal Kreviazuk for "Julia"; Sum 41 for "Pieces"; Divine Brown for "Old Skool Love" and Sarah Harmer for "Almost."

Resident Evil writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson praised Danna's score: "On the first Resident Evil, we arrived at a unique score by combining the twin talents of Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson. How to top such a unique sound? It was something that worried us for months, but Jeff seemed to rise to the occasion effortlessly. His score fuses the best of electronic and orchestral to provide a cool, modern soundtrack that at times seems to be channeling pure uncut Carpenter (John that is). And anyone who knows how much I admire the classic sounds of Escape from New York and Halloween will know how much of a compliment that is. Jeff gave us a truly inspired score."

Jeff Danna has demonstrated versatility and adeptness as a composer with credits including the critically acclaimed The Gospel of John, O, The Kid Stays in the Picture and The Boondock Saints. In the epic film The Gospel of John, Danna painstakingly researched ancient instruments to create an authentic score and incorporated a full orchestra and a choir for the music. For The Kid Stays in the Picture, a look at legendary Paramount producer Robert Evans, Danna researched music of various time periods to create a score that would incorporate the eras of Robert Evan's personal journey. Other Danna credits include his acclaimed score to the Miramax Othello adaptation O, The Grey Zone, Green Dragon, and Roger Spottiswoode's The Yeltsin Project.

In addition to his busy scoring schedule, Danna enjoys a career as a recording artist. His collaborative orchestral Celtic albums with brother Mychael (Capote, Little Miss Sunshine, The Nativity) reached worldwide success and placed in the Top 10 on the Billboard charts. Jeff Danna has received numerous BMI and SOCAN Awards for scoring excellence.

His upcoming projects include Chicago 10, the documentary that will open this year's Sundance Film Festival; Closing the Ring, a romantic drama starring Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, and Mischa Barton; and Nimrod Nation, an eight-part documentary series about a Michigan town's obsession with high school basketball, also directed by Brett Morgen.

SOCAN is the Canadian copyright collective for the communication and performance of musical works.


Michel Legrand Live in Brussels
Euroarts DVD 2055118 (E.U.)
Running Time 115 mins

Watching this concert, I am reminded of a time, probably in the '70s when British TV ran a series of shows, recorded, I think, in Canada, featuring Michel Legrand conducting and playing piano, as well as introducing famous musical guest stars. They were wonderful shows, which I used to enjoy with my mother. Of course I was already familiar with Legrand's music from my interest in film music, an interest I think my mother found it hard to understand at times, due to the wide variety of film scores I listened to. But she did enjoy Legrand's shows and good music in general and I guess that's where I get it from, especially my love of melody.
Anyway, I digress. This DVD release from Euroarts features the then 73-year-old composer in concert with the Flemish Radio Orchestra, recorded at the Flagey Studio 4 Concert Hall, Brussels in 2005. Despite his advanced years, Legrand is still sprightly enough to enthusiastically conduct the orchestra and, as the second part of the concert presentation showed, his fingers are still nimble enough to produce some amazing jazz from his piano, even if his singing voice, probably fair to say always an acquired taste, leaves a little to be desired, especially reaching those high notes, these days.
Although I suspect this is all one concert, the DVD presents it in two parts. The first, which I suspect is the conclusion of the performance, features Legrand with the Orchestra, together with soloists Herve Meschinet, Claude Egea and Catherine Michel, and concentrates on the composer's film music. It commences with the familiar concert suite from The Three Musketeers, then Meschinet's saxophone leads a rendition of "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" from Best Friends. Next up is the first of two pieces featuring the trumpet of Claude Egea, the theme from Never Say Never Again, which is quickly followed by "Dingo Howl" from Dingo, the soundtrack to which of course the great Miles Davis played on. An energetic suite of themes from Legrand's musical score for Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, with parts for both aforementioned soloists, follows. I have always preferred his score to this film to his more famous Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, save for the great "I Will Wait for You" of course, so this was a great pleasure for me. The great music keeps coming with Meschinet joining the orchestra in Legrand's wonderful theme from Summer of '42, before he introduces harpist Catherine Michel for the suite from his score for the more contemporary musical he collaborated on with the Bergmans, Yentl. This score is a true masterpiece of musical cinema, with more great songs than any other musical I know, past or present. I admit, I am not a lover of the films of Barbra Streisand, but this is one I could watch over and over, just for the music.
Thus ends the film music part of the disc, well, not quite, as you shall see, because the second half of the disc presents Legrand performing jazz numbers and songs at the piano, accompanied by Peter Verbraken on guitar, Bart Denolf on double bass and Jean-Philippe Komac on drums. The stage seems mighty empty without the orchestra, but if you enjoy Legrand's jazz and, let's face it, much of his music, even for films, is grounded in jazz, you'll lap this up.
First up, Legrand stays with film with a lengthy development of "Watch What Happens" from the aforementioned Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. He follows this up with two non-filmic pieces, La Valse des Lilas and Ray's Blues. One of my favourite Legrand songs "What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" from The Happy Ending follows, and it's always a pleasure to hear this great song, another collaboration with the Bergman's, even if Legrand, as previously stated, did struggle with some of the high notes. Again, the composer turns then to non-film compositions with Family Fugue, Le Vieux Costume, Edith and Rupture, before closing the programme with the aforementioned "I Will Wait for You" from Les Parapluies, not sung on this occasion, but instead Legrand demosntrates the tune's versatility in a series of fine improvisations.
In conclusion, although Michel Legrand is a great jazz pianist, it is fair to say that, given the choice, I would have preferred the entire concert to have been of his film music, but for a complete picture of what he is all about, this is a well-balanced programme, with great musicianship and of course the music of a master.
The accompanying booklet, in three languages, features notes by Stephane Lerouge, together with stills from the concert.

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