It was in 1959 that French pianist Loussier combined his interests in both jazz and J.S. Bach to create his Play Bach Trio and the first of a long series of successful records – initially with Decca and lately with Telarc. He has also been involved in other projects over the years exploring the areas between jazz and classical, even getting into the rock-fusion realm. Among his 14 discings for Telarc have been versions of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, music of Erik Satie, Ravel’s Bolero, Handel’s Water Music, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, Mozart Piano Concertos and Impressions of Chopin’s Nocturnes.
The new CD is a return to the Trio’s roots in Bach via a new jazz interpretation of the entire six Brandenburg Concertos, in order. But this time a rather new approach is in the works. As described by Loussier himself: “Whereas my older recordings were about adding to Bach, this record is about reducing his music to its essence, taking the main themes and working with them as any jazz musician might in playing a theme, an improvisation, and a return to the theme.”
The Brandenburgs are a perfect choice for the Play Bach treatment since they are already about the jazziest of Bach’s works. I recall as an adolescent not being that interested in Bach until I got the Brandenburg concertos (on an early prerecorded tape). Then I sat up and took notice. Loussier started with the Concerto No. 5 because it is really a harpsichord concerto. The trio had worked over this concerto in live performance for many years, and the rethinking of the original is more extensive and imaginative than many of the past Play Bach treatments. Just one example is the hypnotic drum and bass beat in the last movement of Concerto No. 2, which sounds almost like Ravel’s Bolero.
If I were a big MP3/AAC person, I would put together a “mix tape” of each movement of the Brandenburg concertos – first from the fine Martin Pearlman/Boston Baroque CD on Telarc, and then from Jacques Loussier’s new CD.
– John Sunier