Baroque music often is forced to dwell in the background at parties with aspirations, but when played and listened to properly its drama emerges, thanks in large part to its exciting, decisive rhythms. A proper appreciation of the music's rhythmic strength gives it the thrust necessary to achieve grandeur and pathos.
Jacques Loussier smoothes out these rhythms for jazz's sake in his newest Telarc release, which is titled Baroque Favorites but features some less-well known works tossed in with the inevitable Pachelbel "Canon in D Major" and Albinoni "Adagio in G Minor," and the smoothing-out is what dooms the disc.
Loussier plays everything with gentle, predictable syncopation and for the most part adds nothing else of his own to the music, creating a vaporous jazz atmosphere. It's neat that Marin Marais' "La Sonnerie de Sainte-Genevieve du Mont" sounds like Paul Desmond's "Take 5" when Loussier and his trio play it in 5/4 time, but the rhythmic shift, along with Loussier's reticence, takes a piece that once was monumental and makes it merely pleasant. The Pachelbel and Albinoni both dissolve quickly in their new hyperlanguid rhythms, and the story is similar elsewhere.
When Loussier allows himself more freedom to insert solos, or gives free rein to bassist Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac or drummer Andre Arpino, interest picks up as these artists respond to great music. Each instrumentalist solos in at least one of the movements of Georg Friederich Handel's "Organ Concerto in F Major," and the performance at least sparks interest, even if it does not wholly convince. Mostly, though, this disc serves best as smooth, unobtrusive background, just the thing for people who think both Baroque and jazz are best if they don't command too much of your attention.