One of today's most creative and popular crossover artists, pianist/composer/arranger Jacques Loussier is known the world over for his imaginative re-interpretation of the works of J.S. Bach and other master composers. His previous recordings for Telarc have included the works of Bach, most recently in an acclaimed disc of the mighty Goldberg Variations (CD-83479), as well as music of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons (CD-83417). Loussier has made two previous forays into the music of French composers also, with works of Satie on Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes (CD-83431) and Ravel's Bolero (CD-83466).
The orchestral music of Debussy, sensual and full of color, is ideally suited to the unique improvisatory skills of the classically-trained Loussier and his talented trio, but it presents special challenges. "Everyone knows a piece like 'Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun,'" says Loussier, "especially its famous slow introduction with its haunting melody for flutes, so the challenge for the Trio is to match the same atmosphere created by the orchestra…I had to think hard about what to play on the piano," he continues, "you simply can't physically play all the notes that are written for the orchestra…" His remarkable solutions involve the use of creative voicings on the piano, both by itself and in combination with the double bass, and the assignment of certain motives (such as those normally played by the harp) to the percussion instruments played by Loussier's drummer, Andre Arpino.
The solo piano music also required a carefully thought out approach to voicing and touch. "…the piano music of Debussy involves a very different technique from Bach," says Loussier, "and I think I've adapted to an appropriate feeling for this style." The chronological range of music featured in this recording is wide, dating from 1888 to late in the composer's career, about 1913. Included are the popular and familiar works "Clair de Lune," "Reverie," and "Arabesque," as well as "L'isle joyeuse" and "La Fille aux cheveux de lin." "Although in the beginning I think some of his piano works are easier," Loussier says, "and his works get more elaborate and difficult over time…the real pleasure comes from his harmonic language, which does not change." It is this harmonic language that Loussier believes had a direct influence on jazz.
In the well known and image-filled "La Cathédral engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral)," Loussier describes how he creates the atmosphere of darkness and being underwater by using the lowest range of the double bass, played by Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac. "This and the use of percussion," says Loussier, "are a good example of the way that…we've developed ways of thinking and working together so that we're almost like a single solo instrument." Loussier believes that this unity between the members of the group gives them a sense of common purpose. "I think the results are one of my favorites out of the many, many albums I have made over the years," he says.