Remember those old Reese's peanut butter cup commercials that had the two guys, one with a jar of peanut butter, the other with a chocolate bar, crashing into each other? After the one guy gets his chocolate bar stuck in the other guy's peanut butter, he quips " you got peanut butter on my chocolate " the other guy retorting " you got chocolate in my peanut butter." A fortuitous accident to be sure, because when the two realize what a delicious concoction they've created due to their clumsy collision, they suddenly visualize the commercial possibilities of such a messy melding.
Similarly, jazz has seen the artistic possibilities when it has fused itself to other styles and genres of music. In essence, jazz was created from the mixing of many elements including, but not limited to, the blues, European classical music, Broadway show tunes and marching band music. For some time, jazz has been going in the direction of borrowing twentieth century classical elements and incorporating them into the jazz lexicon. The end result is still jazz, with improvisation being the staple of the music.
French pianist Jacques Loussier has, for the last forty years, been going about fusing jazz and classical music with a different approach. First and foremost, Loussier is a well studied, classically trained pianist who has spent a great part of his life infusing classical music with jazz elements, and not the other way around, as is usually the case in modern jazz. The end result is music that is neither jazz, nor classical, but an amalgam of the two. Loussier's ideas about combining the two forms came to fruition with his 1959 record, Play Bach Trio.
This CD, entitled The Bach Book celebrates the 40th anniversary of the aforementioned landmark album, as well as the 250th anniversary of J.S. Bach's death. Loussier , accompanied by bassist Vincent Charbonnier and drummer Andre' Arpino , plays beautifully and with great spirit, while putting a modern twist on classic pieces like "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", and "Prelude No. 1 in C major." But listen to the third part of the "Brandenburg Concerto No.5 in D major" (Allegro). Loussier and company swing hard, and even get into a funky groove as Loussier plays lots of jagged lines, and clusters of Debussy-like whole-tone harmonies. The first part of "Concerto in D major for harpsichord" (also entitled Allegro) has a real bluesy feel to it- not surprisingly, since Bach wrote his fair share of one/four/five progressions during his lifetime.
Interpreting the works of great masters is no easy undertaking, but Loussier and and his trio make the playing of this music seem effortless. Armed with a graceful facility on piano, and an obvious understanding of, and empathy for the classical repertoire, as well as a deep respect for the American art form, it's clear that Jacques Loussier can stick his chocolate bar anywhere he wants to.
Track Listing: Prelude No. 1 in C major; Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major (I.Allegro, II. Affettuoso, iii. Allegro); Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring; Gavotte in B minor; Concerto in D major for harpsichord (I. Allegro, II. Andante, III. Allegro)
Personnel: Jacques Loussier (piano); Vincent Charbonnier (bass); Andre' Arpino (drums)
I love jazz because next to my kids, it's the love of my life.
I was first exposed to jazz by Joe Rico from a tiny station in Niagara Falls in 1954 when I was 13.
The best show I ever attended was Maynard Ferguson who blew the roof off Massey Hall in the late 50s.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to everything you can and then listen again.