- Güher and Süher Pekinel Live in Concert by Trio Jacques Loussier
Johann Sebastian Bach was famous in his lifetime for his improvisational abilities. Perhaps this is one reason that jazz musicians in several eras have been drawn to his music. From Swing Era treatments of Bach such as Benny Goodman’s “Bach Goes to Town” and Django Reinhardt’s “Interpretation Swing du 1er Mouvement du Concerto en Re Mineur de J. S. Bach” through Bud Powell’s 1957 “Bud on Bach” and the Modern Jazz Quartet’s 1973 album Blues on Bach, the German Baroque master has been reinterpreted in a variety of jazz contexts. French pianist Jacques Loussier has devoted a large part of his career to jazz versions of Bach’s music, and the fruits of his collaboration with Turkish pianists Güher and Süher Pekinel are featured on this DVD.
The DVD includes about 97 minutes of concert footage from three different performances: the 2001 Schwetzingen Festival (in Schwetzingen, Germany), a 2007 concert in London’s Cadogan Hall, and a recital at the 2006 Lucerne Piano Festival. The 2001 concert includes two works by Bach: the Concerto in C minor, BWV 1060, and the Concerto in D minor, BWV 1063, as well as “Summer” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, all arranged by Loussier. The Pekinels perform with Loussier Trio bassist Vincent Charbonnier and drummer André Arpino on the BWV 1060. All three members of the Loussier Trio join the Pekinels on the BWV 1063, while the Vivaldi is played by the Loussier Trio alone. All of the other concert footage consists of the Pekinels performing standard classical repertoire (Bach’s Concerto in C minor, BWV 1062 in London, with Sir Colin Davis and the English Chamber Orchestra, and Rachmaninoff’s Suite no. 1, op. 5, Fantaisie-Tableaux for two pianos in Lucerne). The title “Bach Jazz” is somewhat misleading, since only three of five works on the main section of this DVD are played in jazz style, and only two of those are by Bach. Extras include a biographical film on the Pekinels, excerpts from additional classical performances, and a 31-page booklet.
The Pekinel sisters clearly possess extraordinary pianistic virtuosity, but it is not of the jazz type. This becomes all the more [End Page 168] clear when their performances are compared to those of Loussier, who is obviously more comfortable and familiar with jazz aesthetics (given the fact that he has been doing Bach and jazz for decades, this is to be expected). The Pekinels play with a fiery bravado that communicates and impresses, but their interpretations lack the Bill Evans-influenced subtlety and shadings that seem second nature to Loussier. The arrangements feature the alternation of sections of the classical work with sections of improvisation and the addition of “blue notes” to Bach’s melodic lines. These work together with the jazz trio instrumentation to create an effective fusion of styles. In general, this is a worthwhile DVD, if not quite for the reason advertised. It will appeal to fans of classical piano duos and will serve as a good introduction to Baroque music in jazz style.