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Dip Your Ears, No. 75 (Loussier's Brandenburgs)

available at AmazonJ.S.Bach / Loussier, The Brandenburgs,
Jacques Loussier Trio

available at Amazon
Play Bach

available at Amazon
Play Bach II

available at Amazon
Plays Bach

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40th Anniversary

available at Amazon
Goldberg Variations
“Crossover” need not be the dirty word it has come to be to most engaged lovers of classical music. Although Il Divo, Andrea Bocelli, various string quartet ‘tributes’ to rock bands, and a slew of other ill conceived, badly performed, tasteless schlock have ingrained a natural gag reflex in some of us, there is nothing about classical music that would make it inherently less qualified to be picked up by another style of music and transformed, adapted, or deconstructed – or vice versa.
The examples I am aware of that work best are largely mergers of various degrees between Classical and jazz idioms. Take the avant-garde Uri Cain, a favorite of mine, especially with his Mahler-explorations, for example, or Kálmán Oláh (among other works his Jazz interpolations for the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra recording of the Goldberg Variations), and then of course the ‘mother of Jazz/Classical crossover, Jacques Loussier.

I’ve loyally followed his work ever since I hit upon – and fell in love with – his “Play Bach”. I’ve gone down the road of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with him, Debussy and back, to Chopin’s Nocturnes, made stops at Handel’s Watermusic and the slow movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. I can’t say that all of these have been unqualified successes (I liked the Chopin and Beethoven; Vivaldi and Haendel were harder to get used to) – and even where these adaptations or renderings for piano, bass, and drums work well enough, they don’t quite have the special ‘something’ that Loussier brings out of Bach (or Bach brings out of Loussier). Naturally I am glad to see Loussier back with Bach for the first time (?) in six years since he recorded “Take Bach” with the Pekinel sisters on piano.

This time he tackles the Brandenburg Concertos (in somewhat looser adaptations than much of the other Bach that went into his jazzy-counterpuntal versions) and the result is some of the best Loussier I’ve heard in a long time. Nothing short of the original “Play Bach” recordings, Loussier, Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac (bass), and André Arpino (drums) (all presented in excellent sound by Telarc) deliver an hour of romping through the Brandenburg concertos in great style; abbreviating and exploring along the way, always completely recognizably Bach and Loussier at the same time. (A hint of the Reger piano 4-hands transcriptions blinks through, here or there, but Loussier is, of course, less literal.) A great discovery for anyone new to Loussier’s take on Bach; a most rewarding continuation of those who have followed him thus far.

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