Michel Legrand, André Previn, Ed Bickert

20th Century musical legends are leaving us at an accelerated rate.

Michel Legrand wrote two of my favorite songs: “The Windmills of Your Mind” and “You Must Believe in Spring.” In both cases the lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman are integral to the finished work. Noel Harrison sings wonderfully in the credits to The Thomas Crown Affair. (The title sequence is by Pablo Ferro, also recently passed.)

André Previn was a splendid Gershwin pianist (Aaron Diehl turned me on to Previn’s Concerto in F) and a sympathetic conductor (I admire the Rachmaninoff concertos with Ashkenazy). I don’t know most of his other work so well, but an anecdote from his days writing music for Hollywood is immortal:

One day, the story goes, [Irving Thalberg] was in his projection room running a new MGM film when something on the sound track bothered him. “What is that?” he asked irritably into the darkness. “What is that in the music? It’s awful, I hate it!”

The edge in his voice required an answer, even if that answer was untainted by knowledge. One of his minions leapt forward. “That’s a minor chord, Mr. Thalberg,” he offered. The next day, an inter-office memo arrived in the music department with instructions to post it conspicuously. It read as follows: “From the above date onward, no music in an MGM film is to contain a ‘minor chord.’” Signed, “IRVING THALBERG.”

(From the memoir of the same name, No Minor Chords.)

Ed Bickert was one fourth of one of the greatest jazz LPs of all time, Paul Desmond’s Pure Desmond with Ron Carter and Connie Kay. Here’s “Have You Met Miss Jones” and an accompanying transcription. Just fabulous playing from all three musicians, including Don Thompson and Terry Clarke: kind of a “Canadian All-Star” band!