Jacques Loussier Trio Celebrates a Half-Centruy of Classical-Jazz Innovation
Jacques Loussier Plays Bach: The 50th Anniversary Recording
The 1950s were one of the most experimental periods in the history of jazz. In the wake of the big-band era of World War II and the late 1940s, jazz combos on either side of the Atlantic scaled back in size and sought innovative ways to do more with less. The results were often exploratory and experimental. Musicians everywhere grafted different musical ideas to the widely accepted jazz conventions of the day.
For Jacques Loussier, the results of these experimental forays ultimately played a prominent role in the evolution of jazz. In the 1950s, he was a young pianist trying to find ways to improvise on the compositions of J.S. Bach. When he took the occasional break from his classical training to entertain friends by mixing elements of Bach with jazz, the results were something fresh, innovative and widely popular in the Paris club scene – popular enough, in fact, to launch a career.
Jacques Loussier assembled the first incarnation of his Play Bach Trio in 1959, and immediately forced musicians and audiences of both jazz and classical music to rethink the boundaries – and indeed, the similarities – between their respective genres. Five decades later, Telarc International – a division of Concord Music Group – celebrates this landmark anniversary with the release of Jacques Loussier Plays Bach: The 50th Anniversary Recording.
In addition to marking the golden anniversary of the Loussier Trio, the 2009 release also heralds a milestone birthday for Loussier himself, who turns 75 on October 26.
Recorded in France, Japan and England – and out of circulation since the early 1990s – the tracks are culled from various points along the prolific and influential trajectory of the Play Bach Trio following the group’s lengthy hiatus in the early ‘80s (Loussier disbanded his original lineup in 1979 and retreated to the countryside of Provence to build a large studio as a place to compose and record in rural solitude).
“What we hear on the present CD came about as a result of the J.S. Bach tercentenary celebrations in 1985,” says jazz historian Alyn Shipton in his liner notes to The 50th Anniversary Recording. “It was suggested to Jacques that he might relaunch the trio as part of the year-long celebration of Bach’s birth, and so he recruited the brilliant young bassist Vincent Charbonnier, who was already making a name for himself not only as a jazz player but as a baroque specialist…and the drummer Andre Arpino.”
“I think now that today’s trio is the best I have ever led,” says Loussier, “but this anniversary album is very import ant to me, because it represents a crucial point in the group’s history, both looking back at the past but also pointing in our future direction.”
For all of the brilliance captured in Jacques Loussier Plays Bach: The 50th Anniversary Recording, the veteran pianist-composer insists that this half-century mark is merely a stop on a much longer journey. “This is the best playing of my life,” says Loussier. “And now we can look forward to our hundredth anniversary. Just another fifty years to go!”