look back at his great musical collaborations, from Michel Legrand to Maurice Vander via Philippe Saisse

Claude Nougaro died on March 4, 2004, leaving a gaping void, never filled, at the confluence of song and jazz. An outstanding singer, poet, lyricist, throughout his career he has surrounded himself with exceptional artists. For this 20th anniversary, we revisit his discography. A look back at some of its historic partnerships.

France Télévisions – Culture Editorial



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French singer Claude Nougaro on stage at the Palais des Sports in Toulouse, February 23, 1983. (JEAN-PIERRE MULLER / AFP)

In a half-century career, Claude Nougaro has built a rich repertoire of more than 300 songs. Author, composer and performer, the native of Toulouse has most often worked with brilliant jazz musicians, themselves composers, but also arrangers. When he was not writing his music, he liked to revisit and transform pieces of jazz or Brazilian music by dressing them in his own words (this is the other part of our tribute). But more often he worked in partnership with composers. We can cite Jacques Datin, Michel Legrand, Maurice Vander, Eddy Louiss, Aldo Romano, Bernard Lubat, Philippe Saisse and Richard Galliano… They all provided sumptuous settings for texts full of humanity, depth, mischief, even of self-deprecation by Claude Nougaro.

Here are some gems from his discography, some written and composed by the Toulouse himself, and for the majority, the fruit of a fabulous collaboration.

“A little girl” (music Jacques Datin)

In October 1962, Claude Nougaro was already almost 33 years old when his appearance on television, feverish and panting in the skin of the fickle husband conscious of having shattered the illusions of his loved one, propelled him into the big leagues. A little girl made him a star. The music is by Jacques Datin, a prolific composer of French song in the 1950s and 1960s (he died prematurely in 1973). A year earlier, in 1961, Datin and the lyricist Maurice Vidalin, his great musical partner, co-wrote the song We lovers who won Eurovision. With Nougaro, Jacques Datin will co-sign nuggets from the repertoire of the Toulouse artist such as the irresistible and well-watered I am under… and the moving Song for the mason, tribute from the singer to the poet Jacques Audiberti…

“Cécile my daughter” (co-signed with Jacques Datin)

A few months after the birth of his first daughter Cécile on May 30, 1962, Claude Nougaro spoke to his child and delivered the most tender and delicate of messages in an autobiographical song that will remain timeless. Words and music come naturally to him, a cappellaand Jacques Datin, at his side, will put the score and arrangements on paper. Cécille my daughter was released in a super 45T format disc in 1963, at a difficult time for Nougaro, immobilized after a serious road accident. This song will be his first big success. As for little Cécile, without having asked for anything, she automatically enters the memory of the French as an incarnation of paternal love. She even appeared on the small screen at the age of two, in 1964, when a French television team came to visit her father after his long convalescence.

“The Cinema” (music by Michel Legrand)

The song The movie theater was launched in September in a super 45T (four titles) where it coexists with A little girl, Jazz and java And The Don Juans. This shows that Claude Nougaro is making a big impact in the world of song, with his very particular phrasing and his syncopated rhythms. This entire disc is eminently jazz and illustrates the brilliant association with Jacques Datin on the one hand (the latter signed half of the melody of the song Jazz and java) and Michel Legrand (composer on The movie theater And The Don Juans) the other. Legrand is a decisive artistic encounter for Claude Nougaro. If the two men began working together in the 1950s, it was in 1962 that Michel Legrand gave a decisive boost to the singer’s career. He urged Jacques Canetti, at the time the most powerful producer and artistic director of song, to sign Nougaro to his Philips label. Canetti was not very interested, but he will face the facts: the super 45T with four nuggets is a triumph. And The movie theater is a little masterpiece with an unusual structure, cinematic in short, without verse or chorus. Only the epilogue echoes the prologue of the song, the latter having been punctuated by a furtive musical quotation from the jazz standard Caravan formerly created by Duke Ellington’s orchestra…

“Schplaouch!” (music by Michel Legrand)

Among the different songs born from the collaboration between Nougaro and Legrand, we cannot resist the temptation to highlight this marvel, both aquatic and philosophical, released in 1966. Claude Nougaro splashes us with all his thirst and strength of life, carried by the brilliant jazz musicians that Michel Legrand brought together around him. Jazzmen like organist Eddy Louiss, keyboardist Maurice Vander, drummer Daniel Humair and saxophonist Michel Portal took part in the recording of the album. Slum (1966) in which this title appears.

“The Rain is Tap Dancing” (music by Maurice Vander)

Claude Nougaro definitely loves the aquatic element, and particularly rain. With the pianist and jazz organist Maurice Vander, one of the most important partners of his career, he co-wrote several classics, including the dazzling The Rain is tap dancing in 1968. If the title evokes the memory of Gene Kelly dancing in a heavy downpour in Singin’ in the Rain, the song does indeed contain an allusion to the golden age of Hollywood, in the person of Marlene Dietrich… Several years later, in 1980, Nougaro dedicated a text to his friend Maurice Vander, whom he nicknamed the Rooster . They will write together The Rooster and the clock

“Nougayork” (Philippe Saisse)

In the 1980s, Claude Nougaro found himself ousted from the Barclay record company due to insufficient sales of his album. Blue White Blues (1985). The Toulouse singer then flew to New York on the advice of sound engineer Mick Lanaro who worked on several of his records. He met keyboardist Philippe Saisse, arranger for Al Jarreau. Invited to stay with the widow of Charles Mingus, Nougaro immerses himself in the roots of jazz and the magic of New York. He writes the text of the song Nougayork in ten minutes. Saisse includes music that came to him in the metro. Back in Paris, the singer signed with Warner. The album Nougayork was released in 1987. Nile Rodgers plays guitar on the eponymous track. Philippe Saisse is the composer of several titles from the album du nouveau souffle de Nougaro, such as the splendid We have to turn the page.

“Rimes” (music by Aldo Romano)

From the 1980s, Claude Nougaro collaborated with the famous jazz drummer Aldo Romano. They co-signed several songs that can be found in four of the singer’s albums between 1981 and 1997. A final trace of this artistic partnership, the moving Blue waterwill open Nougaro’s posthumous album, The Blue Note, released in November 2004, eight months after his death. But we retain a particular attachment to poetry and the sweetness of Rhymes, song released in 1981 on the album Clean songs.

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