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January/February 2006

Jacques Loussier Trio
Mozart Piano Concertos 20/23
Telarc

Pianist Jacques Loussier's ongoing series of large-scale jazz riffs on the classical repertoire now finds him taking on Mozart, just in time for the 250th anniversary of his birth (Mozart's, not Loussier's) in 2006. To make Wolfgang's famous 20th and 23rd piano concertos swing, Loussier strips the woodwind and brass from Mozart's orchestral parts and gives the strings new rhythms to play, but he doesn't touch the original harmonies; his longtime trio partners, bassist Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac and drummer Andre Arpino, lay down the new rhythms and accompany Loussier's solos.

Given all that, it's surprising how weak the jazz influence sounds on this album. Rarely does Loussier take advantage of his solo position to make the old notes blue, and the new rhythms don't change the melodies all that much, except to introduce an awkward jerk into the previously dramatic theme of the first movement of the 20th concerto. Even in the cadenzas--which in the 18th century were occasions for virtuosic, improvised solos!--Loussier just nonchalantly noodles on the old-school material. Jazz fans interested in the material should pick up Robert Levin's recordings of the originals, which despite their nominally classical stance sound a lot fresher than Loussier's swingin' Wolfie.

Originally published in January/February 2006
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