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Jacques Loussier Trio
The Best Of Play Bach

Review By Karl Lozier
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Jacques Loussier Trio The Best of Play Bach

SACD Number: Telarc Hybrid SACD-63590


  It seems almost like clockwork the regularity with which Jacques Loussier Trio's ever-popular recordings pop up from Telarc. They are jazz interpretations of various classical composers and started originally with Bach. Particularly popular in Europe, Jacques and his partners are increasingly popular here in the States. As you might guess, he was classically trained and somehow just naturally drifted into jazz and specifically jazz interpretations of classical masters of composition. Somewhere, some long time ago, I remember reading a brief comment by some musicologist or music reviewer stating that if Bach were alive today he would certainly be a jazz composer. Perhaps that feeling extends to Loussier.

This is promoted as a special recording for Jacques Loussier. It is honoring Loussier's seventieth birthday, his original trio's forty-fifth anniversary and the twentieth anniversary of his reformed trio. This recording is being marketed at a special price and is available only as a hybrid multi-channel SACD-63590, playable in stereo on any CD player and priced as a regular CD only disc! So, even if you do not yet have a SACD or universal player, you will be ready when you finally get one. So far it seems as if all SACD multi-channel or surround recordings, even as a layer in hybrid discs, offer better sound generally and particularly a smoother and sweeter extended high end. I predict you will eventually get one and a year ago I would have bet it would be an SACD player -- now I am not nearly as certain of that as DVD-Audio is sneaking up on SACD, so perhaps you should be thinking of a so-called universal player. If so, chose carefully as most of the universal players seem to have a very real weakness in one of their formats. Unfortunately, that weakness is often arising with the use of regular (Red Book) CDs.

This recording was originally done ten years ago and was done, I believe, at the same time as the original Play Bach recording. There may even be a couple of repeats on this disc. Well-known recording engineer, stalwart Michael Bishop was responsible for a new stereo mix, as well as surround sound and mastering for SACD. I do not have that original Play Bach recording, but I feel certain that Bishop pumped up the mid-bass to sound a bit like an organ for those selections popularly known to often be played on a pipe organ such as the "Toccata and Fugue in D minor". Those listeners with "high performance audio systems" (a term used this year by the CEA at CES) may find the impressive bass response to be a bit overfull or bit bloomy at times, but only at times.

Loussier's approach with his piano playing, gets off to an impressive start with great forward momentum obvious in the first few bars of the first selection here which is the "Prelude No 1" from the Well-Tempered Clavier. The Italian Concerto's "Allegro" is suitably serious and melancholic while the "Presto" is very suitably outgoing and energetic. The Jacques Loussier Trio is treating Bach's fundamental themes with respect while entertaining with a unique interpretation for our listening pleasure. All except classical purists will get a kick out of the relatively subtle "Air on a G String". I was very impressed with much of the quieter and reflective portions of the "Toccata and Fugue" though near the opening chords it sounded as if Loussier was trying to get too much out of the piano or the microphone was being briefly overloaded and not a big deal in any event.

My two slightly negative comments were greatly ameliorated when I changed to my multi-channel system where I could listen to all the channels as direct inputs from the separate SACD surround layer -- definitely all was even better. Michael Bishop's surround mix was much to my liking and simply adding a feeling of spaciousness and ambiance. As usual, Loussier's accompanists are outstanding and they play as if guided by one mind. Of the remaining half dozen selections I will glowingly refer to the sublime understated beauty of the interpretation of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" as a mini masterstroke of music making. I must really be getting used to Loussier's interpretations, arrangements and playing and wound up thoroughly satisfied with the variety of Bach selections. My favorite Loussier recording is still probably his treatments of the "Allegretto" from Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 and available on Telarc CD-83580.





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