Bach: The Bach Brandenburgs; Play Bach

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Telarc; Kind of Blue
ALBUM TITLE: Jacques Loussier Trio , The Classical Jazz Quartet
WORKS: The Bach Brandenburgs; Play Bach
PERFORMER: Jacques Loussier Trio; Kenny Barron (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Stefon Harris (vibes, marimba), Lewis Nash (drums)
CATALOGUE NO: Telarc CD-83644; Kind of Blue 10012
I’ve always been a fan of Loussier’s original Play Bach Trio: in my teens I’d catch them whenever they played London. I recall Loussier telling Roy Plomley that all he was doing was using Bach’s themes as JS did, as a basis for improvisation (which was self-evident anyway) so imagine my surprise at Telarc’s press release, where Loussier is quoted as saying this record differs from his older recordings because it is about ‘taking themes and working with them as any jazz musician might in playing a theme, improvisation and return to the theme’. No change there, then, except Loussier now sounds less imaginative than of yore. Occasionally he sparks (like on the Presto from the Fourth Concerto) and de Segonzac’s lines are splendid throughout, but it pains me to say that overall this comprises little more than cocktail-lounge decoration of themes JSB treated more daringly. It’s pleasant, relaxing and enjoyable, but hardly stimulating. (NB to Telarc, whose website puffs Loussier’s Goldbergs album by saying ‘Only the founding father of the Play Bach Trio could sweep the cobwebs off this monumental opus!’ – there are no cobwebs on Bach’s music!)

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The all-star CJQ shows how it should be done. Distinguished elderstatesmen Carter and Barron and relatively-young lions Harris and Nash really do engage with Bach’s themes as they would any other raw material, doing great credit to themselves and the composer. The standard only falters slightly on ‘Air’ (on a G-String) of which Loussier made an iconic version over four decades ago. Barry Witherden