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IMPEX Records Legrand Jazz - A Wonderful New 45 RPM LP Reissue

10-28-2019 | By Robert S. Youman | Issue 105

Legrand Jazz, Michel Legrand. IMPEX Records.

I'm very much falling in love with 45 RPM LPs. I'm also very much falling in love with IMPEX Records and their recent series of vinyl releases. Merge this format and this label together and you have a real winner: Legrand Jazz. This is a pressing that could possibly take its place as one of the crown jewels in your entire jazz LP collection. Legrand Jazz is the very essence of what audiophile records can be and should be!

Yes, 45 RPM LPs might be a pain to flip through, but my goodness they are certainly worth it in my humble opinion. The latest and greatest from IMPEX, Mobile Fidelity and Analogue Productions continue to set new bench marks as in some cases they are difficult if not impossible to differentiate from their reel to reel counterparts (when available for comparison). With the latest surge of incredible sounding reel to reel tapes hitting the market, I did consider reel to reel as the gold standard right behind the master tapes. These new 45 RPM releases are now in the team picture too.  

IMPEX has a long respected legacy in the audiophile vinyl market and thanks to the business and production leadership of Abey Fonn and the distribution support of Kevin Berg over at Elusive Disc, they continue to step up their game. This includes the fairly recent 33 RPM releases of Another Time, Another Place by Jennifer Warnes, Lo Que Dice Mi Cantar by Trio Palabras and Friday Night In San Francisco by John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, and Paco De Lucia.

Now we have Legrand Jazz in 45 RPM. Released in 1958 on the Columbia label and recorded at the renowned Columbia Records 30th Street Studios, it was arranged and conducted by the French jazz enthusiast Michel Legrand. Musicians included Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, Hank Jones, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd, Phil Woods, Ben Webster, Herbie Mann, Milt Hinton, Frank Rehak, Jimmy Cleveland, and Joe Wilder amongst many more superstars.

This IMPEX stereo reissue is sourced from the original 1958 work tape by Mark Wilder at Battery Studios and cut by Chris Bellman and Bob Donnelly at Bernie Grundman Mastering. This was an end to end all analog effort including an all tube mastering system. The icing on the cake is the latest and greatest 180 gram vinyl utilized by RTI. Talk about low noise and black backgrounds!

Most of these tracks are fairly familiar jazz standards with a very laid back and soothing emphasis, but you will be hard pressed not to immediately fall in love with the arrangements and the subtle but addictive way that Legrand brings out all the skills and powerful voices of these iconic musicians.

There are so many highlights that its difficult to point to any track in particular. However, one of my favorites is "Blue and Sentimental." Ben Webster (tenor sax) stands stage left and Frank Rehak (trombone) stands stage right in a very expressive if not alluring duet of alternating solos. The instruments are so three dimensional and rich with proper timbre and weight that your eyes might just swell up as you imagine the rye whiskey and cigarette smoke whirling around you. Yep, it's a studio but the quality of this recording and your imagination will take you to another place.

"Django" is still another slice of French Kharma. Miles Davis and Bill Evans float through this track with as much cool and refinement as you will ever hear from them in their quintessential albums together or on their own. That classic muted trumpet sounds better than ever with no edge or tilted emphasis—just layers of wonderful harmonic bloom and foggy ease. Piano is weighty and detailed with plenty of rhythmic expression and subtle bursts of life. Circling and swirling throughout is Betty Glamann on harp that provides another interesting mix and counter to that provided by Davis and Evans. Just exquisite stuff.

Legrand Jazz is an absolute keeper and deserves to be in every music lover's collection. This goes for both the jazz aficionados out there and even those with other interests but who love to dabble with something very special. Production is limited so I'd jump on the purchase before its too late.


IMPEX has just announced that Friday Night In San Francisco by John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, and Paco De Lucia will be reissued in November in a 45 RPM format. Based on my glowing review of the 33 RPM reissue earlier this year, I am greatly looking forward to hearing this in my system.  Again, there will be limited quantities so get it on your early Christmas list!

IMPEX Records Corporation

1197-C East Los Angeles Ave

Simi Valley, CA 93065