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The Jacques Loussier Trio: Handel

C. Michael Bailey By

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The finest in Jazz interpretation of the Classical Canon...

Classical music adapted to the jazz medium is nothing new. Pianist Uri Caine spent much of the past four years doing so with the music of Wagner, Schumann, Bach, and Mahler . Currently, the Classical Jazz Quartet (comprised of Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, Stefon Harris, and Lewis Nash) has released two recordings interpreting classical pieces, The Classical Jazz Quartet Plays Bach and The Nutcracker . But long before all of these, there was Jacques Loussier. M. Loussier released a collection of Bach interpretations with his Plays Bach Trio in the late 1950s to a considerable amount of crossover excitement. After selling several million copies of their Bach recordings, the band broke up.

Then, in 1985, the 300th anniversary of Bach’s birth, M. Loussier reformed his famous trio with two new members and returned to addressing the classics in a jazzy vein. In the past 15 years, Loussier has addressed French Impressionists ( Ravel: Bolero —Telarc Jazz 83466, 1999 and The Music of Debussy —Telarc Jazz 83511, 2000), Vivaldi ( The Four Seasons —Telarc Jazz 83417, 1997), and Eric Satie ( Gymnopédies Gnossiennes —Telarc Jazz 34312, 1999). The Classical Jazz Master now turns his attention to Handel, that Anglicized German of Bel Canto fame. For his object, Loussier safely chooses Handel’s Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks, aside from Messiah, Handel’s most popular compositions.

Loussier’s treatment is professional and reverent within the auspices of jazz. This is a most entertaining disc even without knowledge of the original music. Loussier manages to fold into one another, Bach (and Handel) counterpoint, Dave Brubeck Rondo sensibilities, Paul Desmond coolness, a bit of the Islands and a Holiday spring. I don’t believe I heard one dropped note on the entire recording. The craftsmanship is superb, by Loussier and his most able rhythm section, which together for the most cohesive trio unit I have heard since seeing Fred Hersch for the first time. One not need be a classical music or jazz buff to enjoy these finely conceived interpretations. Merci!


Track Listing: Water Music; Music for the Royal Fireworks; Passacaglia (Total Time: 76:27).

Personnel: Jacques Loussier

Title: Handel | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Telarc Records

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