Saturday, July 05, 2008


One of life’s great pleasures tonight.

I’m a great fan of jazz/classical pianist Jacques Loussier. He has been playing his own interpretation of Bach for something over 40 years now, and in the last couple of decades he has added additional music from such composers as Ravel, Satie, Vivaldi and a raft of other Baroque composers.

In a world of look-alikes and wannabees, he is simply unique – a technically extremely competent classical pianist and composer, with a jazz overlay to his playing that puts Bach, especially, into a different perspective for me. I first saw him with his trio in London at the Royal Albert Hall in around 1965, some 40 odd years ago, listening for about 3 shillings and sixpence (Sixteen pence, or 25 cents if you think in US Dollars) up in The Gods, right on the top tier of the hall. That was before they fitted the sound absorbing "Flying Saucers" in the roof to sort the acoustics out, and I had the privilege of hearing the concert twice for my money - the second performance following about a third of a second after the first!

He blew me away then, and I’ve listened to his playing ever since. Whenever he plays at a venue anywhere near me, I pile in for my 5 yearly fix. I must have seen him almost 10 times since that time, and tonight he turned up in Shrewsbury with his trio, and off I went to hear him.


He’s 73 now, and the lithe energetic man with a sharply trimmed beard I saw 40 odd years ago is now a greying, more circumspect character. He talks very quietly to the audience and when he plays at the keyboard, his body hardly moves, although his eyes twinkle and his hands are still a blur on the keys. A number of the music snobs think he dumbs down the music, but in reality he brings a unique freshness and a buzz to everything he plays.

He is supported by a couple of absolutely top class musicians. His drummer, Andre Arpino, has a delicate and stunning touch which is unerring, rock solid, very inventive and a joy to watch and listen to. Anyone who thinks drumming is a Four in the Bar accompaniment, should listen to Arpino. He has an amazing sense of light and shade, offering a perfect support to Loussier’s piano lines, as well as showing a prodigious skill when he takes off on his own.


The bass player rejoices under the glorious name of Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac which sounds like a very expensive Premier Cru Claret. A long, lanky guy with closed cropped hair and enormously long fingers, he hangs on and around his instrument, as if it’s part of him. If the idea of listening to a lengthy, meandering Double Bass solo does not turn you on, you should listen to this guy. He struck off into a solo which lasted for ever and the several hundred people crammed into the Shrewsbury Music Hall, to a man, were totally riveted and struck quite dumb by it all – not a single cough or noise – for its 6-7 minute duration.

He stroked it, caressed it, hit it, played huge booming, ringing bass notes, followed by almost guitar like soprano sounds with him hunched over the body of the instrument with his head bent over almost touching the sound board. He slid sinuously up and down the strings making it sound on occasions like a dark slide guitar, and then rebuilt the melody in a sequence of deep triple chords which made you wonder how his fingers ever reached all the notes simultaneously. It was an absolute tour-de-force. I thought it was breathtaking.


He last visited the Music Hall in Shrewsbury 3½years ago, on his 70th Birthday, when the town presented him with a large Birthday cake. By then, he'd played something over 3,000 concerts, and he still made it all sound as fresh as a daisy. You hope he goes on for ever so I’m mentally slotting myself in to see him again in early 2012 when he’s 77.

À bientôt.



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