Friday, January 29, 2016

Play Bach

No. 214 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


This week’s podcast concludes our brief look at trios, with a practical application of the jazz trio (piano, bass and drums) to classical repertoire.

In past J.S. Bach podcasts, such as our look at the Brandenburg concertos from 2012 and our Bach Transcriptions podcast of 2013, we made ample mention of how many composers – most noteworthy among them being Bach himself – reused, recycled and indeed reinvented some of his works by performing them using different combinations of performers, or even entirely different settings.

Chief examples include the orchestral transcriptions of Bach’s organ music for large orchestra, or Wendy Carlos’ many Bach interpretations on the Mighty Moog and today’s choice, jazz interpretations of Bach’s music.

I first was exposed to the work of Jacques Loussier in the early 1970’s, as one of his many interpretations of Bach’s two-part inventions was used by Radio-Canada as the title music for one if its shows (I think it was l’heure des quilles, but I could be wrong…) .

Loussier started playing piano at the age of 10 and just 16, he entered the Conservatoire National de Musique in Paris where he studied with Professor Yves Nat. In the late 1950's Jacques Loussier left the Conservatoire to travel to South America and the Middle East as well as work as accompanist for Catherine Sauvage and Charles Aznavour.

In 1959, Loussier began to explore a novel concept, combining his interest in jazz with his love of J.S. Bach. Only a pianist with an exceptional classical technique and deft improvisatory skill could have nurtured such a vision. He founded the Play Bach Trio, which used J.S. Bach’s compositions as the basis for jazz improvisation. The trio immediately caught the public imagination. In their live appearances, tours and concerts, plus a succession of recordings built on the cornerstone of four albums made for Decca between 1960 and 1963, Loussier’s group achieved commercial success enjoyed by only a select few jazz musicians. In 15 years, the trio sold over six million albums.

In 1978, the trio broke up, and Loussier set up his own recording studio in Provence, where he worked on compositions for acoustic and electric instruments. He also worked with musicians like Pink Floyd, Elton John, Sting, and Yes. (Allegedly, parts of Pink Floyd's album The Wall were recorded at his studio).

Today’s podcast features some of these landmark recordings, where LKoussier is joined by string bass player Pierre Michelot and percussionist Christian Garros. Loussier has also explored Vivaldi, Satie and Mozart in a jazz vein, but his clever improvisations and flawless technique shine in the Bach repertoire, which he has indulged in several times on record over the last 50 years, with a wide variety of jazz (and orchestral) partners. I’m sure Papa Bach would approve of these great interppretations!

I think you will love this music too.

No comments:

Post a Comment