JACQUES LOUSSIER (b 1934 )
Born in Angers on 26 October 1934, Jacques Loussier started playing the piano at the age of ten. Six years later, he entered the Conservatoire Nationale de Musique in Paris where he studied with Yves Nat, whose gifts as a pianist had been encouraged by Debussy. Loussier duly became one of Nat’s most accomplished pupils, heading the conservatory’s piano class of over 500 students. After he left the conservatoire, he began a freelance career which saw travels to South America and the Middle East as well as accompanying Catherine Sauvage and Charles Aznavour. In 1959 Loussier hit upon the idea that was to make his international reputation, combining his interest in jazz with a love of Bach when he founded the Play Bach Trio that used Bach’s compositions as the basis for jazz improvisation. The trio immediately caught the public imagination. In their live appearances, tours and concerts, plus a succession of recordings centred on those made for Decca during 1960–63, they achieved a breakthrough to worldwide popular commercial success—in the process selling over six million albums.
During its heyday, the trio broadened its range of activities with Loussier double-tracking pieces on organ and piano. The original trio ended in 1978 and, two years later, Loussier retired to Provence to compose, research and record. He had already composed for film and ballet, and established his own recording studio at Miraval, near Nice, where, in addition to composing for acoustic and electronic instruments, he hosted many figures from the rock world. His music of the 1980s explored the integration of new technology with conventional instruments. He wrote suites for piano, synthesizers, percussion and bass, and also rock-jazz-classical fusion compositions including Pulsions, Pagan Moon and Fusions sous La Mer. The tercentenary of Bach’s birth in 1985 saw Loussier reform the Play Bach Trio with two new partners—combining jazz, rock and modern classical with a mix of jazz and Bach. The trio has kept up a busy touring schedule, though one leaving Loussier time to write his own compositions. In 1986 he wrote the mass Lumières, his first full-scale work for symphony orchestra and one which continued his long-term exploration of the synthesis of musical genres, concertos for trumpet and violin (both 1988), a suite for strings Tableaux vénétiens, and a ballet Trois Couleurs (1989) to celebrate the bicentenary of the French Revolution.