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Beethoven: Allegretto from Symphony No. 7 (theme and Variations - Arrangements By Jacques Loussier)

Jacques Loussier Trio

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Album Review

Pianist Jacques Loussier has been creating jazz trio arrangements of classical works by Bach, Handel, Debussy, and others for almost four decades, with results that vary in success according to a fairly consistent pattern: the closer his source material gets to the Baroque period, the more successfully it blends with his decorous chamber jazz style. The further into the 19th century he gets, the more soggy and uninspired that fusion becomes. A comparison between, say, his charming and sprightly settings of Handel's Water Music and this rather forced and mopey-sounding attempt at a jazz arrangement of the Allegretto section from Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 will demonstrate the point. When the sparkling swing of his bop-inflected piano style is set against the foursquare rhythms of Handel's music, the result is greater than the sum of its parts; the sweet melodic simplicity of Handel's compositions is brought out and accentuated by the driving swing of the rhythm section, and Loussier's improvisational variations bring out aspects of those melodies that you might have missed otherwise. But Beethoven's music relies, in part, on his own rhythmic conception for its power, and the grandiose emotion of his symphonic construct is lost in a piano-trio format. Note in particular the sludgy results when Loussier and his crew tackle the third variation in this program; instead of being freed from rhythmic bondage, this music feels like it was forced into a straitjacket. Loussier is right to take chances with his music, and he should be praised for daring to mess with the masters in this way. But it should come as no surprise that some of his experiments are more successful than others.

Biography

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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