RTR, May 29, 1971
by Rob Partridge

Pop music has grown from the limitations of three minute songs. The depth and complexity of the music has developed with an audience no longer content to base their taste on the current Top Twenty, and with this new sophistication have come musicians from other fields of music, attracted by the vitality and excitement to be found in pop.

One such musician is Michel Colombier, whose album 'Wings' described as the first symphonic-pop cantata, is released on A&m this week. The album is jut possibly the largest single project ever undertaken by A&M it has been year in the making and uses a total of 176 musicians. Colombier has actually been working on the composition for three years, and it was his decision to record the album in sections, the orchestration in France and the additional music in the United States.

Colombier's background is steeped in classical music. His father played violin and classical trombone in the Opera of Mulhouse Orchestra, and Colombier was sent to a conservatory in Mulhouse to study music. At the ale of 18, Colombier studied piano and musical theory in the Paris Conservatory.

It was at that stage Colombier discovered an interest in improvisation and jazz, and he began jamming with many of the small French jazz bands.

Jazz eventually became Colombier's dominant musical interest. He left the Conservatory and took several pianist jobs, both in small jazz bands and orchestras. By the mid-sixties, he was composing and arranging scores for French films, and commercials and Colombier also became increasingly involved in record production.
In 1968 he became Petula Clark's chief arranger. Colombier went to Los Angeles to arrange one of her television shows, and it was there he began scoring films and television Shows for Universal Studios. In the summer of that year, Petula Clark was appearing on the Brass Are Comin' television show, and Colombier met Herb Alpert, who, with Jerry Moss, founded A&M in 1962. The two of them discussed an idea of Colombier's for an extended pop music score, combining elements of both pop and symphonic music.

Said Colombier: "in 'Brass Are Comin' there were three sections where they needed music. I did some things with strings and woodwinds, and a rhythm section. Herb liked what he heard and asked me right then and there if I wanted to do a contemporary symphony for A&M some day in the future using a jazz band, full symphony orchestra and soloists". 

As a result Colombier entered the studio about a year ago to begin work on Wings. Colombier's requirements were vast; he wanted a full symphony orchestra, a 25-piece jazz orchestra, a rhythm section, an electrified string trio and a chorus and soloists. 

His requirements were met. Colombier decided to record the orchestration parts at the Studio Europa, and the Wagram studio in Paris. His decision to record in France was governed by the language barrier and because of his feeling that French orchestras are among the best in the world. The jazz orchestra, rhythm section and string trio were also put together in France under Colombier's direction.

The symphony orchestra utilised classical musicians from both the Paris Opera and the Opera Comique of Paris, while the jazz orchestra used musicians of the calibre of Jean-Luc Ponty, whose recent gigs at London's Ronnie Scott club and his work with Frank Zappa have given a considerable reputation in both the jazz and rock fields.

All the solo vocalists, chorus work and additional saxophone, woodwind, trumpet and trombone sections were recorded at A&M studios in Los Angeles. 

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