Jacques Loussier in concert for a Sunday. With the sad news earlier this year of the passing of Jacques Loussier, I was reminded how wildly popular he was in the 1960s, while being isolated by two musical camps at the same time. What Loussier became known for, to many millions of fans worldwide, were his interpretations of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach for Jazz trio. Putting a Popular slant on Classical music has been around for a while; the 1930s were jammed with swing adaptations of various composers. But Loussier was doing something different; he wasn’t riffing on a single theme, but rather looking at an entire piece and dissecting it, transposing it and presenting it in such a way as to give the impression that, if Bach were around in the 1960s, he would have approved of this take on his work and would, in all likelihood, be experimenting with it himself.
That drew the ire of the Classical Music camp as well as the Jazz camp – the critics and pundits primarily – the musicians themselves saw this as a logical extension and freeing-up of a genre that came loaded with preconceptions, usually from the observers and not from the actual musicians in the trenches. The Classical pundits saw this as a horrible bastardization of sacred and lofty music – the Jazz pundits saw this as a betrayal of the African roots of Jazz.
Both spoke to the rigidity of expectations and pre-conceived notions – neither saw the notes as an expression of pure form, something that was up for interpretation and point-of-view, subject to a whole galaxy of appreciation and discovery.
But over the years Jacques Loussier, and his trio (from inception until the 1980s, Pierre Michelot and Christian Garros) persisted and produced an enduring legacy of recordings known as Play Bach which sold in the millions.
Loussier went on to a career as composer of numerous scores for Film and Television as well as writing symphonies, concertos and a considerable amount of “cross-over music” with a wide range of collaborators.
If you aren’t familiar with the music of Jacques Loussier, here’s a good place to start; a broadcast from North German Radio of a concert given on February 18,1965 in Hannover.
Hit the play button and dive in.