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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.

Customer Reviews

Getting better with age

I'm not sure what the other reviewer heard, the drums sound fine to me. This is a fitting cap to a wonderful career. The album itself doesn't swing as hard as the earlier recordings but it's still as fresh, cool, and viberant as ever. At 75 Loussier seems to be able to take a more mature look back showing how Bach can be cast in any situation. Hat's off to anyone who can still be hip at this age!

Where are the drums?

I have been a big fan of Loussier since I discovered his trio in the 70's. This is a wonderfully recorded album but on most of the tracks one can barely hear the drums. In the old recordings you'd hear the drummer when he played brushes and even the triangle! All the dynamics were there – which made the music more interesting. There are a few tracks where you can hear the drummer, but on the whole I am not thrilled with the mix of this one. Its a shame because, as always, the playing is tasteful and beautiful. Ugh!

Jacques Loussier Plays Bach: 50th Anniversary Recording

Brilliant improvisation, combined with amazing technical facility. This is what Bach would have written if he'd been alive today. I detect a sense of humor here, with uncanny timing-changes that seem to catch the listener off-guard.


Born: October 26, 1934 in Angers, France

Genre: Jazz

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

b. 26 October 1934, Angers, France. A classically taught pianist, Loussier found a career in commercial popular music more lucrative. Then, in 1959, he hit upon the idea of performing the classical piano works of Johann Sebastian Bach in a quasi-jazz style. Together with Pierre Michelot and Christian Garros, the trio had enormous international success with the wider public. The concept, the low-key detached style, and possibly the huge commercial success, failed to endear the group to the hardcore...
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Jacques Loussier Plays Bach: The 50th Anniversary Recording, Jacques Loussier Trio
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