Debussy... et le jazz - Preludes for a Quartet
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A century after his death on March 25, 1918, Quatuor Debussy wished to honor a composer as who, long before Louis Armstrong and Bill Evans, was one of the creative artists who influenced the harmonic colors of jazz. This collaboration between Quatuor Debussy and leading jazz personalities - pianists Jacky Terrasson and Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven, accordionist Vincent Peirani and vibraphonist Franck Tortiller - revists Debussy's Préludes in a whole new way.
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For an album with the nominal goal of 'fusing' Debussy and jazz, it would thus seem curious to use the string quartet as the chosen medium, because if any one musical medium is associated with classical music, it is the string quartet. All of the 10 track on the album use string quartet. In fact, the even-numbered tracks use only string quartet. The other tracks include other instruments as follows:
Track 1: accordion (Vincent Peirani)
Tracks 3 & 7: vibraphone (Franck Tortiller)
Tracks 5 & 9: piano (Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven - track 5, Jacky Terrasson - track 9)
Track 5: double bass (Jean-Louis Rassinfosse)
The string quartet-only arrangements come across as very respectful, with just a few small emendations to add any sort of 'jazz' flavor. For the odd-numbered tracks that include other instruments, there is considerably more freedom in the arrangements, in terms of departures from the strict piano text, and in the 'mashing up' of different passages, especially in Track 9. Yet even in those arrangements, the other instruments don't necessarily run riot with lots of notes, or "soup up" Debussy's original invention to a great degree. The one impression (pun not intended) that ran through this reviewer's thoughts about these arrangements was "respectful", or perhaps "tasteful".
The Quatuor Debussy do a fine job in all of the selections, as do the featured "guest artists". For the record, Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven is not to be confused with Jean-Philippe Collard. The recording quality is fine throughout, with all instruments in good balance with each other.
IMHO, the arrangements of the original Debussy Preludes for string quartet won't necessarily displace the originals in one's esteem, or at least this reviewer's esteem. But as something of a unique experiment, this album has its place.