Jacques Loussier Trio: The Bach Book: 40th Anniversary Album

The Loussier recordings remind me of a tribute band: well-known material that somehow loses something in translation. This is not to say that they are without merit. Far from it: These are uniformly beautiful arrangements and performances-a bit too uniformly so, one might add. As the subtitle to The Bach Book suggests, Monsieur Loussier has been at this a long time. Whether the Third Stream movement influenced him in general, or perhaps just the MJQ, Loussier’s initial successes came at a time when musicians were seeking new formal concepts for their improvisations. Some sought to break frames-Ornette Coleman, for example-while others simply sought new frameworks. In Bach, Loussier found expansive harmonic structures well suited to improvised paraphrasing. Then as now, each of the players-Loussier on piano, Andre Arpino on drums, and either Vincent Charbonnier or Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac on bass-makes an admirable contribution, but the soundscape is rather flat. The Bolero disc is the more successful of these two-and not just for Ravel’s chestnut. Loussier’s “Nympheas” suite is a great success, perhaps because it was written specifically for this trio setting. It takes all that Loussier has ingested from the “classics,” and spins it out through his own sensibilities. That may make it Third Stream in fact, but the result is very listenable.