MJR (Michael J. Roberts): Congratulations on the success of your show “My Time With Legrand”, how did your association with Michel Legrand begin?
LS (Laury Shelley): It started with an album called “Jack Jones Sings Michel Legrand”. One day my brother in-law played this album and as they say, ‘I was gone’! I was very young and pretty much ahead of my time musically. I was listening to music most kids my age weren’t even interested in. I was mesmerized, hypnotized and thoroughly taken in by the magic of some the most beautiful music I had ever heard !
Of course I would then go on to learn and sing his songs whenever and wherever I was singing, not realizing at the time that it was the unusual rangy melody’s that I was drawn to, which explains why I had such a passion for the avaunt guard and unexpected music of Legrand.
So with each year I learned more of his music and was growing as a singer, always singing his songs. I started to hang and jam with several musicians, one I became very friendly with, a pianist named Randy Waldman. One particular evening I was leaving my apartment. As the heavy door was closing the phone started to ring and I ran back to answer the phone. It was Randy asking me if I wanted to go to Mr Kelly’s, a famous and well known club in Chicago that artists from Barbra Streisand to Sarah Vaughan performed at, and see Michel Legrand perform.
Well of course I changed my plans and said yes and met him there. So we go in and there was Michel about to go up and perform. I remember the minute I heard him play and sing. Everything else around me disappeared and I was completely enthralled with every note and every word he sang. It was so magical and beyond anything I had ever experienced musically.
When the first set was over I kind of went up to him as he was walking by and said hello, introduced myself and told him I was a singer and loved singing his songs. He asked if I had anything he could hear of me singing, so I mentioned Randy and I were talking about recording something soon. (BTW, Randy is a very well known pianist arranger who has worked with the many artists in the business including arranging and accompanying Barbra Streisand on albums and her concerts).
Funny how I don’t think I got an address, phone number or gave him one, which leads me to going back the next night to hear Michel again with a group of jazz musicians I knew. Did I mention Michels band? On piano, Michel Legrand; Bass- Steve Gilmore;Drums- Bill Goodwin;Trumpet- Marvin Stamm; Alto Sax- Phil Woods and a String Quartet from the Chicago Symphony. The best and it was glorious! So I get to the club for the second night to hear Michel, walk in and most of his band, were all sitting at a table. He saw me and motioned, “Did I bring the Cassette recording on me for him”? Of course I said no, walked over to the table and asked Michel “Why don’t you play and I’ll sing for you”? Well there was complete silence. Everyone looked at me like who the hell is this kid! Michel then looked up at me and said “o.k.”, come to the club tomorrow and he’ll play and I’ll sing. I couldn’t believe it, I was going to sing the next day for Michel Legrand !
Before I knew it, the next day I was having lunch with Marvin Stamm, one of the most renowned Trumpet players in the music business, who would then walked me over to Mr Kelly’s for me to sing for Michel Legrand. We get there and Michel is working on the piano and having it tuned up. So Michel played for me as I sang the first song, Bye Bye Blackbird, sang it once through then scatted. The next song I sang was his Pieces Of Dreams. I couldn’t believe I was singing that song that he wrote to him. Michel seemed very pleased and that was enough for him to hear. I really wanted to sing You Must Believe In Spring one of my favorites, so when I mentioned that song he said “yes” to sing it, probably because it’s a very difficult song to perform.
After I sang, Nat and Michel were talking about being interested in me singing with Michel. Within a couple of weeks I was sent Michel’s demo album so I could start learning his songs. Soon I would started touring with Legrand. I was singing and performing with one of the greatest composers in the world !
MJR: How did you go about choosing songs from the Legrand songbook for your show?
LS: As you know, I’m working with Ralph Lampkin, who is producing, writing and directing this show with me. Choosing what Legrand’s songs to sing is a bit challenging since there are so many of his songs I love. I wanted to really personalize the show so every song is picked for a specific reason and meaning and there are stories that connect personally with the songs too from my 5 1/2 years of touring as vocal soloist with him. Of course there are some favorite and well known songs that are a must to do. Then, while working on choosing other songs, Ralph introduced me to some very obscure and not so well known Legrand songs that I couldn’t resist the minute I heard them and had to add the list.
MJR: What song means the most to you personally and why?
LS: There are a few or maybe even three. But the one that grabbed at my soul the first time I heard it, then sang it to the maestro himself the day after I met him and is very near and dear to my heart, is “Pieces Of Dreams”, which has become a signature song for me and for years I had the honor of singing a duet arrangement of the song with Michel while we toured and performed concerts. The live recording of the duet, which is on the album Michel Legrand and Friends was just re-released for CD on RCA this last Oct 2012. ”Pieces Of Dreams” to this day, still holds it’s own as one of the most important Legrand songs in my life.
MJR: Growing up, who were your biggest musical influences?
LS: There are more than a few, in fact a variety I love and enjoy singing many different genre’s of music. I listened to lots of jazz, though I listened to many Sarah Vaughan was one of my biggest influences as a singer. I was very drawn to her, still am. I always listened to many musicians in jazz, think the reason is because I think like a musician not just a singer so my mind set is all the elements that make up singing a song, melody, lyrics and how you approach the music is all important. When I was a child I listened to Gospel a lot and of course a lot of R&B and Rock and Roll..Aretha, James Brown, Beatles and country, classical, etc. But I’m saving the most important musical influence for last, I must say is Barbra Streisand. The connection was there right away, I think mainly because what I wasn’t given as child I could express through music and listening to Barbra, although I didn’t know it at the time because I was young, inspired me to do something I could feel free and good about, SING, and so I did !
MJR: What do you want the audience to take away from your show and what do you want them to know about Mr. Legrand?
LS: I want the audience to experience an evening hearing some of the most beautiful, passionate music ever written, hear the heart warming and fun stories I share of the years touring and singing Legrand’s haunting and brilliant songs and to be moved. What do I want the audience to know about Michel? That he is one of the most important composers in the world and how important his music is, forever!
MJR: What other projects are you working on?
LS: After this show I will be writing more of my own original music and recording it. Also, I am working with Ralph on many other projects that will be announced soon.
Lampkin Music Group is proud to present singer, Laury Shelley, in “My Time With LeGrand”. Saturday November 17th at 8:00 pm. Music Director/Accompianist/Arranger: ViJay Tellis Nayak. Drums: Bob Rummage. Bass: Jim Cox. Direct from New York, Laury takes you on a journey through the music and memories she shared with Michel LeGrand. Laury toured with LeGrand for about 6 years, appearing at Carnegie Hall, St. Regis Hotel and many others concert halls and nightclubs cross country and in Canada. Laury’s New York solo debut last month was attended by critics and singers, who made note of her stunning vocal instrument. We are thrilled to be home in Chicago and to share this newly written show with you. Songs include The Way He Makes Me Feel, I Was Born in Love With You, Sweet Gingerbread Man and The Hands of Time. Tickets are $20.00. Available at www.stage773.com. www.Chicagojazz.com/LauryShelley.
For ticket information, call the Stage 773 box office at 773.327.5252
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