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Jacques Loussier Plays Bach: The 50th Anniversary Recording

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Album Review

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.


Born: 26 October 1934 in Angers, France

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Pianist/composer Jacques Loussier demonstrated musical ability at an early age, starting to play at the age of ten and entering the Conservatoire National de Musique in Paris at 16. Loussier's main professor there was Yves Nat, who in turn was encouraged by Faure, Saint-Saens, and Debussy as a student...
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