Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Jacques Loussier assembled the first incarnation of his Play Bach Trio in 1959, and immediately forced musicians and audiences of both jazz and classical music to rethink the boundaries - and indeed, the similarities - between their respective genres. Five decades later, Telarc International - a division of Concord Music Group - celebrates this landmark anniversary with the release of 'Jacques Loussier Plays Bach: The 50th Anniversary Recording'. In addition to marking the golden anniversary of the Loussier Trio, this release also heralds a milestone birthday for Loussier himself, who turns 75 on October 26. "This is the best playing of my life," says Loussier.
Personnel: Jacques Loussier (piano); Vincent Charbonnier (upright bass); André Arpino (drums).
Liner Note Author: Alyn Shipton.
Recording information: Advision Studio, London, England; Nakano Sun Plaza Hall; Studio Miraval, France.
Author: Jacques Loussier.
Playing the music of Bach in a jazz style seems like heresy to some, like mere silliness to others, and like gimmickry to many more. But for half a century now Jacques Loussier has been making a strong argument in favor of the practice, and although this anniversary recording has something of a valedictory flavor to it, it's hard to imagine that the 75-year-old pianist doesn't intend to keep doing so for as long as he can lift his hands to the keyboard. Loussier isn't a jazz-classical fusioneer like Gunther Schuller, but neither is he a cheesy popularizer like Claude Bolling. He approaches Bach's music with evident respect and even reverence, but also with an unassailable sense of swing, and therein lies the magic of his approach: Bach's music works so well in the jazz context because the original compositions themselves swing so little. Playing the eighth Two-Part Invention or the Minuet in G Major in a jazz trio context actually sheds a whole new light on the architectural beauty of the music, exposing both its melodic sweetness and the sturdiness of its architecture. (For this reason, Loussier's experiments in jazzifying the music of Debussy and other masters of the romantic era have tended to fall flat -- how do you construct a compelling or even interesting swing around music already largely characterized by rhythmic pliability?) Best of all, though, is the putative bonus track, a sweet and joyful rendition of the familiar Christmas chorale "Sleepers Awake." If listeners could get another 25 years of this kind of thing out of Jacques Loussier and his trio, the world would be a happier place. ~ Rick Anderson