Cata's party goes on and on
Let’s crawl into the week slowly, shall we ? On our bellies but stealing glances at the sky. Maybe you’re an early riser like me and like to see a few stars before the day gets underway. In any case, it’s the middle of the night and there are still a few lights on in the highrises here in Olympiades, whether partiers or early risers or people who just can’t sleep. A halo of light hangs in the fog over Orly and I can make out N7, the old Roman route south that predates Paris, in beween the buildings. People on their way at all hours.
The music playing now is smooth – it’s a piano trio – and it’s jazz but this isn’t elevator music. Hard to define: More like thinking music, as in, What next ? True, it was immensely popular from the get-go but it moves fast and repays repeated listens. It’s an interesting story, and there’s a life to go along with.
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Jacques Loussier was a seventeen year old piano student at the Paris Conservatory when he got an urgent telegram from a friend, stranded in Caen two hours away, with a gig to play that evening and no one on the 88s : come quickly. His career was born. Two years in Cuba followed after school. On his return to Paris, he became the accompanist of choice for singers like Charles Aznavour, Léo Ferré and Catherine Sauvage, all of whom came up in the cabaret scene in the Latin Quarter, at Aux Trois Mailletz (still there on Rue Galande) and other clubs.
In ’59, he made a move that should be studied by anyone interested in knowing how canny you have to be to get a hearing as an artist, and how lucky you are when you’re in the right place at the right time. True, people’s ears were wide open then, and true, Europe has a long cultural tradition to lean on, but who would have thought that someone playing Bach in a jazz club would get more than a handful of listeners ? Bebop was in its heyday, while Free Jazz was making waves on both sides of the Atlantic.
His “take” on Bach – smart and swinging – was a success. Between 1960 and ’70 he played over 3,000 concerts in 80 countries and won the praise of no less than Glenn Gould, who called Loussier’s Bach a good way to revive interest in the German composer. (You can perhaps sense a fraternity between the two players, both of whose playing is clean and quick, without romantic sentimentality.) Over his career Loussier wrote scores for a hundred films and recorded many albums of Bach and original compositions. (See below.)
In 1977, he bought Chateau Miraval in the Var, Provence, a magnificent spread surrounded by some 600 hectares of arable land. Studio Miraval was born shortly after. The roll call of music recorded there might surprise you : much of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, all of The Cure’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me and AC/DC’s Blow Up Your Video, as well as visits from Sade, The Cranberries, the French group Indochine, UB40, Sting, Judas Priest, among others.
1998 saw the beginning of the musical crisis which is still with us : discs could not compete with internet freebies. Loussier sold the chateau to an American businessman, who in time passed it on to the movie stars Pitt and Jolie, with predictable results : lavish, dream-like renovations (helipad included) and a stack of unpaid bills. The two flew out of France on separate planes in the dead of night.
In 2001, Loussier recorded Bach’s Goldenberg Variations and a disc of Baroque Favorites, with music by Scarlatti, Albinoni and others. (Quick quiz : name the composers born in 1685.) In 2002, he settled with Eninem over the small matter of plagiarism of his composition Pulsion, used by the Detroit rapper on his track Kill You. You may sense a theme developing here…
Other discs include Suites pour piano et synthétiseurs with Luc Heller on percussion ; Pulsion ; Pulsion Sous la mer ; Pagan Moon ; The Four Seasons of Vivaldi, as well as interpretations of Satie, Debussy and Ravel. Remembering the moment when Debussy took Satie aside, saying, ‘You should play your pieces like this,’ I’m eager to hear a jazz take on Satie’s Gymnopédies. Since the newer Macs eliminated the disc-playing option, I’ll have to contribute to the crisis and find it on Youtube, the same way you are listening to the Best of Play Bach. We are all just prisoners here, of our own device.
Handel, Bach and Scarlatti were all born in 1685, and all lived until at least 1750.
Were the workers, designers and servants ever paid for their labors during Brangelina’s Chateau Miraval residency ? Who knows. Suits may still be winding their way through French courts. To sue is one way to prove you exist…I made up the bit about the dead of the night but the rest is true.
3:34 a.m. December 12
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Lovely 😊. to all nightwalkers and city sleepers. ?? . when it *s not under zero degree. if it*s like this and it is - we are enjoying your early morning stories in the evening.... There is a flavor of parisian pastry chefs ' most delicious, earliest baguettes in it,...more pâtisserie than reasonable snack..however so deliciously prepared we can devour it delightfully after hours, 11h16 p.m