On the face of it making jazz versions of J.S. Bach compositions seems like a bad idea. But Loussier makes it work beautifully. He began experimenting with the idea as a conservatory student, but it was some years later that he finally recorded the first Play Bach album with Pierre Michelot and Christian Garros. It was an instant success and Loussier never looked back, concertizing extensively and recording numerous albums between 1959 and 1978, initially for Decca in the early 1960s, when, having sold over six million records, he retired to concentrate on his own compositions. The tercentenary of Bach's birth in 1985 tempted Loussier to reform his trio, again focusing exclusively on Bach until recently, when he branched out and began to explore other composer's work, recording albums of Beethoven, Handel, Debussy, Ravel and Satie, all with the same approach. Reviewing each score, he determines which sections lend themselves to a straight classical reading, which ones to jazz interpretation, which to out and out improvisation and so forth. With subtle support from Vincent Charbonnier on bass and drummer André Arpino, he works his magic on several well-known Bach works, with the three-movement Italian Concerto as the centerpiece.
Again, it shouldn't work-swinging Bach could be a cornball disaster. But Loussier and his trio approach it with such taste, and unfailing technique, that the effect is consistently satisfying. Most important, the transitions from section to section, from straight rendition to jazz improvisation and back again is handled with great skill so that we forget categories and just enjoy the music as presented. If there is room for one jazz-meets-classical recording in your collection, this is it.