Air on the G string

Well, you’ll either love this or hate it. If you’re of a certain age like me you might  also remember that happiness is a cigar called Hamlet but not remember who played the tune. This is, fact, Jacques Loussier and his trio doing their take on Johann Sebastian Bach. And before you get too sanctimonious and music-hysterical about this version, I’ll just add that it is well known that Bach enormously enjoyed improvisation. I have a sneaking feeling he would actually have quite liked this…

8 Responses to “Air on the G string”

  1. You had me prepared for something horrific, but this was actually fantastic, in a Libarace-ish sorta way. It had all the lines and themes… He mentioned doing the Italian Concerto – I would have LOVED to hear what he did with that; it’s far more involved. Oh, you spelled Bach, Back, btw.

    I’ve always thought Bach fit so well with math-y stuff.

  2. I’m not sure Jacques Loussier would thank you for comparing him with Liberace, but I remember seeing him at a concert around about 1980 and he was great, although there wasn’t any Bach involved.

    Lots of jazz musicians have done Bach in various forms. Try Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt (with the aid of Eddie South) doing their version of the first movement from Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins.

    I know a lot of people who can’t stand it, but as far as I’m concerned it was, is, and forever will be a blast.

    P.S. You can get Loussier’s version of the Italian Concerto on Youtube, starting with

    I really like the last movement (marked “Presto”)

    Eat your heart out, Angela Hewitt!

  3. I have NEVER heard such a thing as that Django Reinhard interpretation! At first, it felt very wrong in a delicious sort of way, and then I found myself happily laughing. There is no lack of skill in what they’ve done, and they held to the intent of the piece much truer than Jacques. That was a joy! Part of me wants to say that what they’ve done is pure madness, but it’s not. It’s like a happily distorted image thorough a lens, with none of the fundamental beauty of the piece missing.

    I’ll search for some Grappelli…

  4. Oh, and I don’t care if Jacques thanks me or not for comparing him to Liberace with the Air. He was certainly far more camp with his interpretation than he needed to be, and did that eyeballing/playing to the camera as well.

    I wonder why Jazz musicians choose Bach? Wringing out the structure into the more loosely emotional? He certainly has clearly defined lines and repetitious themes that are easy to separate out.

  5. Mark,

    As to your question about why Jazz musicians like doing Bach, I think it’s because improvisers look for sound but interesting harmonic structures to provide the foundation. Bach’s music is so beautifully constructed that it can sustain all kinds of explorations and embellishments without sounding silly.

    Another thing that has often struck me listening to Bach’s keyboard works is how often he uses a walking bass line for the left hand which is very like the type of accompaniment you get in Jazz.


  6. “I have NEVER heard such a thing as that Django Reinhard interpretation!”

    There is a story that Segovia listened to Django playing at a party, then later asked him where he could buy the music. Django laughed and said that he had just been improvising.

    Remember that Django had only two fingers on his left hand! (Back to astronomy, remember that Bernhard Schmidt, probably the greatest lens- and mirror-grinder in history (inventor of the Schmidt camera and allegedly able to feel the difference between a spherical and a parabolic mirror with his fingers) had only one arm (he had lost the other in a childhood experiment with explosives).)

    Walking bass? The bass line (at least at the beginning) is exactly what Bach wrote.

  7. Just in case anyone is wondering: It’s not called Air on the G String due to someone farting on scanty underpants (despite the gas masks(!) at the end of the Jethro Tull clip (I know, that’s another piece, originally for the lute)), but rather because there is an arrangement in which the melody is played on the G string of a violin. Originally this is from one of Bach’s “overtures” or “orchestral suites”.

  8. Anton Garrett Says:

    For some Bach with a REAL difference, try this:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: