Michelle Makarski / Keith Jarrett

Johann Sebastian Bach: Six Sonatas for Violin and Piano

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Jazz pianist Keith Jarrett has recorded Bach before, on both piano and harpsichord. His interpretations are not jazz versions of Bach but are played straight. In this case you might say relatively straight, for Bach's sonatas for violin and keyboard, BWV 1014-1019, were written for a harpsichord and are generally played that way; somehow the ear is jarred more by the piano here than in Bach's solo keyboard music (which Jarrett has also recorded). Jarrett fans will find the evidence of his characteristic style not in rhythmic inflections toward jazz but in his way of sustaining notes, which is never excessive. As long as you agree to this rather unorthodox way of performing Bach, which 50 years ago would not have been unorthodox, you will enjoy this release. Jarrett, perhaps unsurprisingly for someone raised in the jazz tradition, is a sensitive ensemble player, and his work with violinist Michelle Makarski effectively puts the focus on her while nicely carving out a space for his own style. Too, Bach's pieces are unusual in that they were specifically for violin and harpsichord, not for violin and continuo; they make room for the keyboardist, and Jarrett fills it expressively and lyrically. The usual ECM bonus and minus, namely excellent sound and lack of any booklet material other than bad art photography, are both present, and on balance this is an unorthodox but effective Bach chamber-music release.

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