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Pianist David Leonhardt takes a right turn directly into Jacques Loussier territory with the release of Bach to the Blues. Loussier has made his career arranging jazz interpretations of Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Beethoven. His arranging and playing are characterized by a crystalline precision while often sacrificing space for improvisation. Leonhardt loosens the laces a bit, allowing not only for more fertile solo ground, but also introduces whimsy into his arrangements.
Leonhardt also expands the classical-jazz repertoire with Aaron Copland's arrangement of "Simple Gifts" and a reverent twist on Schubert's famous "Ave Maria," as well as an interesting "Claire De Lune." Leonhardt opens his recital with Bach's "Prelude in G Major" from the Cello Suites. Leonhardt mixes the piece up, giving it a straight contrapuntal treatment echoed by Matthew Parrish's fine pizzicato accompaniment. The piece breaks into a breezy 4/4, accented by drummer Alvester Garnett's snare shots. The time modulation recalls Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk." Toward the end of the piece, after eights have been traded, Leonhardt launches into a manic samba that concludes this mixed drink of a jazz interpretation.
Bach gets the most thorough treatment by Leonhardt, who includes three Preludes. In addition to the one in G Major, there is the "Prelude in A minor" (BWV 543) and the "Prelude in B-flat" (BWV 560) (this latter piece providing Leonhardt his bluesiest interlude). Beethoven's "Adagio" from the Pathetique piano sonata (Sonata No. 8 in C- minor, Opus 13) provides Leonhardt an almost balladic vehicle for his trio. The pianist spreads the piece open, allowing for shifting times and paces. "Simple Gifts" sticks out like an American Thumb, possessing the greatest folk quality and treatment by Leonhardt.
Cross-pollination of feeble man-designated musical genres is always a welcome phenomenon, further promoting music as opposed to a specific type of music. Discs like this offer endless entertainment to both jazz and classical- heads alike. Happen to be both? All the better.
Track Listing: Prelude in G Major; Claire De Lune; Ave Maria; Gymnopedie No. 1; Prelude
in A Minor; Adagio from Pathetique; Simple Gifts; Mazurka in G Minor;
Prelude in Bb; Mazurka in C Major; Canon in D.
Personnel: David Leonhardt: piano; Matthew Parrish: bass; Alvester Garnett: drums.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.