[31 January 2007]
French pianist Jacques Loussier has been interpreting the work of Bach for his jazz trio for five decades, and this latest release shows no signs of either diminishing invention or enthusiasm for the project. His particular gift is in the reverence and respect he has for the original music: this is not an exercise in tearing up blueprints or improvising on tunes until they become unrecognisable, rather it is a paring down of Bach’s original scores, mining each one for its essence. The faster pieces, almost inevitably, are the most successful, such as the famous third section of the first Concerto, when bassist Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac is given license to really make the music swing. You can almost feel the restraint in the slower pieces as the tempo slows and the restrictions of sound imposed by such a pared-down trio become more obvious. It’s also unavoidable that, as a result of this minimalist approach, much of the complexity of the original scores is sacrificed. However, this a worthy and respectful set of interpretations worth a listen to those already familiar with the orthodox classical versions, though I suspect it will appeal rather more to fans of jazz piano.