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Jacques Loussier clangs musical genera together like an orchestral cymbalist reaching crescendo. After having weaved his way through Bach, Chopin, Handel and Satie, maestro Loussier turns his attention to Mozart's 250th birthday. For this celebration, Loussier ambitiously chooses the Piano Concertos in D minor (No. 20, K.466) and A major (No. 23, K. 488) for a jazz excursion. The pianist employs his classic piano trio, augmented by a string orchestra. The results, while mixed, still demand hearing, as do Loussier's other classical/jazz collisions.
The D minor piano concerto is one of Mozart's most Romantic pieces, created during a staunch Classical period. The minor key mode provides the piece with a shadowy decadence similar to the experience of eating dark chocolate. Loussier sprinkles 4/4 blues and AABA "I've got Rhythm Gershwin motifs throughout the concerto. His rhythm section accents the natural flow from the Master's pen, steering the pieces between flamenco and Caribbean aural environments (particularly in the beginning of the Rondo movement), as well as heading down South through the blues. The 4/4 breaks are reminiscent of Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk, breaking between 9/8 and straight swing.
The concerto in A is considerably better behaved than the D minor concerto. Loussier performs it in a lilting fashion, almost as a concerto-length waltz that would have been appropriate in The Sound of Music. The opening Allegro has a definite soundtrack personality that is further defined by Telarc's pristine engineering. The Allegro's final cadenza is sprinkled with equal parts of the Master, Gene Harris, Junior Mance, Geoffrey Keezer and Lynne Arriale. The tone is much more classical, less tampered with than the D minor concerto. Nevertheless it is equally enjoyable.
Doubtless purists will grumble, but no matter. One may enjoy these interpretations on several levels, but the deepest understanding will derive from a familiarity with the originally conceived performances. I suggest that the interested listener breathe deep of the standard concerto performances to understand the magic Jacques Loussier makes with these versions. My suggested comparison would be Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 20 & 23, Ivan Moravec, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Neville Marriner, Hanssler Classics (1998). Mozart is skipping in heaven.
Track Listing: Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466: Allegro, Romance, Rondo Presto; Concerto No. 23 in A
Major, K. 488: Allegro, Adagio, Allegro Assai.
Personnel: Jacques Loussier: piano; Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac: bass; Andre Arpino: drums; Anne Gravoin: violin solo; Jacques Saint-Yves: violin; David Naulin: violin; Paul Rouger: violin; Richard Schmoucler: violin; David Braccini: violin Matthias Tranchant: violin; Renaud Stahl: viola Vincent Debruyne: viola; Mathilde Sternat: cello; Jean Claude Auclin: cello; Sylvain Le Provost: bass.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.