JAZZ: It's Just Bach and All That Jazz; Philip Key Talks to Jacques Loussier, the Man Who Gave Us Britain's Most Loved TVcommercial Theme Tune

Article excerpt

Byline: Philip Key

IT WASone of the classic television commercials. Something goes horribly wrong to a man who manages to get over it by lighting a Hamlet cigar.

For many, it was not so much the cigar that intrigued but the relaxing music that went with it, a jazzy version of Bach's Air on aG String.

The man playing it was Jacques Loussier, a French pianist who made a whole career out of playing Bach's music with a bass and drums accompaniment.

There were several albums - all titled Play Bach - and Loussier toured the world with great success. Then in 1977,he unexpectedly disbanded his trio and retired from the concert platform.

In 1984, in time for Bach's 300thbirthday the following year,he created a new trio and set off touring and recording again. He has never stopped.

Next Thursday, he is at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall playing not only his beloved Bach but his own versions of Vivaldi,Ravel,Handel and other classical composers.

Loussier,now 68, was not about to apologise for that Hamlet commercial.

``That music was the longest running in advertising history,'' he says. ``It was first broadcast in 1962 and people still talk about it 41 years later. ``Of course I didn't mind them using my Air on aG String. It was a fantastic way of getting your music known to the public. You need to have your music played in public otherwise people don't know what you're doing! It helped make my success in England.''

Born in Angers, France, on 2 6 October, 1934,Loussier discovered Bachat the age of 11 when learning to play the piano.

``I was studying this piece and I just fell in love with it,'' he says. ``I discovered the music of Bachand it is something I havehadinside me ever since.

``Then I found I loved to play the music but add my own notes, expanding the harmonies and playing around with that music.''

He went to the Paris Conservatory where he studied classical piano. But he did not take the straight classical route.

``There were too many people doing the same thing and I had no money to survive.

``The most important thing for me was to find some kind of work to do with the piano.'' He had aliving to earn.

For some time, he worked with the singer Charles Aznavour - ``a very nice, very good man'' - a swell as playing in night clubs and with various orchestras.

Always there was the Bach. ``It became a bit of a habit with me when I was working and playing.''

There came a spot of Army service and back in civvy street he took a momentous decision. ``I had heard the Modern Jazz Quartet who were jazz musicians trying to play classical music and that gave me the idea to use my skill for improvisation with bass and drums and create a trio playing the music of Bach. …